Brad Shepik and the Commuters
The LoanSGL 1518-2
“Shepik excels in a vein of ethnic improv that mines Middle-Eastern and southern European sources with real wit and passion…His playing has real flair, and the material is deep, spirited stuff — full of appeal not only for the avant-jazz crowd but also for world music fans and the hippie-groove contingent.”
—Bradley Bambarger, Variety
On his debut CD as leader, guitarist Brad Shepik delves deep into the oral folk musics of the Balkans, Turkey, the Arab world and North Africa, fusing them with his own jazz/rock background. As a member of the Tiny Bell Trio, the Paradox Trio, BABKAS, Pachora, and the Yuri Yunakov Band, Shepik has been crossing and exploring musical borders for several years now in his compositions and playing. With The Loan he and the Commuters have put together a tuneful, rhythmically diverse, and richly textured set of his original music. Propelled by Seido Salifoski’s virtuosic dumbek and Kenny Wollesen’s solid groove, the band shifts easily between the Afro-Celtic 9/8 rhythm of “Cumin”, the driving Macdonian-style 7/8 of “Zdravo” (“welcome” in Bulgarian), and the bluesy, hypnotic 13/8 of “Mint” (a tribute to Mauritanian singer Dimi Mint Abba). Turkish melodies and cocek rhythms are combined on “Sazbek”, featuring Brad on saz (a three course, double-stringed Turkish lute), while a Persian 10/8 rhythm is employed in the mysterious “The Seeress”. For “The Water’s Thirst” Shepik fingerpicks his acoustic guitar, evoking the Malian kora/guitar tradition. There is even a fresh reworking of French folk hero Georges Brassens’ “Gastibelza”. The final offering, “The Souk”, is an electrified nod to the chaos of Tanger, Morocco and downtown New York. Supercharged world jazz.
“A brilliant free improvisor and an excellent straight-ahead jazzman” (Harvey Pekar, Guitar Player), Brad Shepik was born Walla Walla WA in 1966, grew up in Seattle, and since 1990 has lived in New York. He is a regular member of Dave Douglas’s Tiny Bell Trio (Songlines, hatART, Arabesque), Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band (JMT, Winter & Winter), Carla Bley’s Escalator Over the Hill, Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio (Knitting Factory), and the Owen Howard Quintet (Koch). He is co-leader of the collectives Pachora (with Chris Speed, Jim Black, and Skuli Sverrisson, CDs on Knitting Factory) and BABKAS (with Briggan Krauss and Aaron Alexander, Songlines). Other musical associations include performances and/or recordings with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Yuri Yunakov’s Bulgarian Wedding Band (Traditional Crossroads), Tim Berne, Steve Swallow, Kenny Werner, Andy Laster (Songlines), Julian Priester, Jerry Granelli, Jay Clayton (ITM), Nils Wogram (Mons), and Tim Sessions (Episode). The current version of the Commuters consists of Peter Epstein, Seido Salifoski, electric bassist Skuli Sverrisson, and drummer Jim Black.
Soprano/alto/tenor saxophonist Peter Epstein performs and records with the Michael Cain Trio, the Marcelo Zarvos Group, Miroslav Tadic, and James Carney. He is a member of Bobby Previte’s groups The Horse and Weather Clear Track Fast as well as Jerry Granelli’s Badlands, and co-leads a trio with Dave Tronzo and Jay Granelli. His own band, the Peter Epstein Quartet, recently released their first CD on M•A Recordings.
Tony Scherr, who plays double bass as well as electric bass, has performed and/or recorded with The Lounge Lizards, Paul Motian, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Sex Mob, The New York Voices, Sophie B. Hawkins, Wolfgang Muthspiel, and Al DiMeola.
Drummer Kenny Wollesen has performed and recorded with John Zorn, Tom Waits, Big John Patton, Ben Goldberg, Ellery Eskelin, and Andy Laster (Songlines), performed with Art Lande, Marc Ribot, Wayne Horvitz, Slide Hampton, Madeleine Peyroux, Sex Mob, Ilhan Ersahin, and Kamikaze Ground Crew, and recorded with Marty Ehrlich/Ben Goldberg (Songlines) Dave Binney, Hal Wilner, Nick Cave, Jim Hall, and Eddie Henderson.
Dumbek player/percussionist Seido Salifoski, originally from Macedonia, performs and records with the Paradox Trio and the Yuri Yunakov Band, and has recorded with Turkish kanun master Goksel Kartal. He has also performed with Dave Binney and Les Miserables Brass Band, and has been active as a drummer and pecussionist in the New York Turkish, Greek and Balkan scenes for years playing clubs, weddings and circumcisions.
“…a gripping and gratifying trip through musical landscapes that vary from frenzied to funky to smokily mysterious.” — Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight
“Shepik is one of downtown’s most exciting guitarists…Virtuoso rootless-cosmopolitan groovesmanship at its finest…”— Richard Gehr, Village Voice (and top 10 for 1997 in Folk Roots)
**** “Of the many ethnic fusions of jazz, this may be the most wondrous and startling of them all…His approach is primarily that of a single-line staccato melodicist, more whirling dervish than Jimi Hendrix. Themes are taken from Balkan, Persian, Turkish, and African motifs (all compositions are written by Shepik), and they take on a life of their own. Many of the melodies are played in unison with alto/soprano saxophonist Peter Epstein, who emerges as an equal partner and important voice. Two similar sounding themes define the Commuters’ approach; ‘The Water’s Thirst’ has a singing acoustic guitar and soprano sax with a slower rhythm that suggests a Turkish caravan, while the same line is sped up in a frenzy in 13/8 time on cumbus and alto for the showstopper ‘Mint.’…Scherr’s dark bass underpinnings and the percussionists’ propulsive ethnic beats provide the perfect launching pad to send Shepik and Epstein flying. Collectively they are making some incredibly difficult and different music sound natural, free, and purposeful. This CD is essential for world music listeners, highly recommended to creative music lovers, and without a doubt one of the boldest music hybrids to come down the pike in the last 40 years.” — Michael G. Nastos, Allmusic.com
“Shepik has crafted a moving and mysterious sonic landscape…His strong original compositions use ancient sounding melodies, written in challenging time signatures, to smudge categories, while continuing to demonstrate jazz’s appetite for new musical partnerships.” — Glenn Siegel, Valley Advocate
“His impressive mastery of the soft-edged musical mix and his virtuosity on stringed instruments yield a delightful outing.” — Nancy Ann Lee, Jazz Times