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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 152 - 02/09/09

Brad Shepik
Human Activity Suite
Songlines

While I'm not a prodigious jazz listener, and tend to get turned off by anything that sounds too stereotypically "jazzy", I can certainly appreciate the skill and vision it takes to execute a compelling instrumental jazz record. Human Activity Suite is just that - not just an album to admire for its stylistic coherence and technical execution, but also for its engaging songs and extremely empathetic ensemble playing.

The theme of the album is the influence of human activity on the environment, with each of the 10 tracks exploring a particular continent (e.g., "Lima (South America)") or sub-theme (e.g., "Carbonic") related to the whole. As such, the album endeavours to bring all continents together, faced by a single predicament: how to find a way to live on the earth in such as way that we don't continue to destroy the planet and ourselves.

It's a pretty lofty concept, but the quality of the music frequently reaches such heights. The melodic lines, mostly played on guitar by Shepik, weave complex patterns without becoming too busy, with instruments such as accordion (Gary Versace), tambura and electric saz (Shepik) occasionally appearing to add some appropriate colour on certain tracks. Waves of trumpet (Ralph Alessi) and organ (Gary Versace) lap against rhythmic outcrops of bass (Drew Gress) and drums (Tom Rainey), and there's a wonderful sense of space and movement throughout.

My limited knowledge of jazz prevents me from elaborating further, but I can confidently assert that this is a thoroughly enjoyable release with an important message. And for that Brad Shepik must be applauded.

Copyright © 2009 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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