Pianist/Composer Julian Shore Asks 'Which Way Now?' on New Tone Rogue Records Release [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt on Feb 26, 2016 05:30 PM EST
Julian Shore Pianist/Composer/Bandleader Julian Shore (Photo : Steve Sussman)

You have to be damn near genius to get a full-boat scholarship to Berklee but Rhode Island bandleader/pianist/composer Julian Shore, on the Which Way Now? follow-up to his promising 2012 Filaments debut, realizes that grandiose perception.

Rather than being tongue-tied into existential crisis by asking that titular musical question, Shore, one of the current lights of an extremely bright and vibrant New York City jazz scene (some of whom are here with him), doesn't seem to have a directional problem. He's focused, articulate, passionate, and with this sterling cast, has ventured into a Classical Lite zone where jazz meets folk, soundtrack music (for a movie that doesn't exist) and even dramatic cabaret ("Alpine," complete with lyrics and vocals by Alexa Barchini).

Shore's the type of dude that if he was an actor, he'd have the lines of everybody in the cast memorized. He not only shines on piano and wurlitzer -- showing off an extraordinary mellifluousness on seemingly classical refrains -- but arranged the woodwinds, composed and co-produced by providing the kind of input that a real pro like engineer Michael Perez Cisneros could run with. One such idea had him looking for a choir effect -- not with voices, but with pianos.

The classical and folk interludes within this tapestry are so subtle (notable exception being the closing "Lullaby" from "Clair De Lune" by Gabriel Faure [1845-1924]) that only the use of Nashville's Kurt Ozan on guitar, dobro and pedal steel for "Pine Needles" reminds the listener we're on another plane here. Yet when Dizzy Gillespie lands on Shore via "Con Alma," the inherent jazz in this youngster's soul comes to the fore.

As the very essence of jazz is experimental, reaching for that sweet spot, willing to gamble, Shore's use of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble writer/arranger Edward Perez for string arrangements on "Our Story Begins on a Mountain" is a bold way to open. Is this the Boston Pops? What's going on here? How can "Back Home" even come close to being Western Swing here after it was originally written by Shore as courageous post-bop? (Featuring Michael Thomas on clarinet, bass clarinet and alto flute, it's actually Gilad Hekselman's guitar who handles the load.) It's like the old conundrum of three blind men trying to describe an elephant depending upon what body part they feel.

Julian Shore has succeeded wildly in creating the kind of contemporary jazz that doesn't care where the inspiration leads.

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TagsJulian Shore, REVIEW, Tone Rogue Records, Berklee College of Music

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