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Shape Shifter, the latest release from Jazz Guitarist Jim Josselyn, is a first-rate collection of six original compositions – and one choice Coltrane tune – that features the New Jersey resident in fine form demonstrating a proclivity for tasteful lines, great melodies and finger-snappin’ charts. His guitar playing and tone is robust – like his writing – and full of ardent tipping-of-the-hat reverence to some of the artists he has come to admire throughout his career. In his own words:
“’Clarisse’ is ‘Count Basie meets modern harmonies’. ‘Waltz For A Rainy Day’ is a loving nod towards Bill Evans and Jim Hall. ‘Iris’ is an uptempo remembrance of McCoy Tyner.” **Taken from the liner notes.
Nice company indeed! The remaining self-penned tunes such as “Heads Up”, “Never and Again” and the groovy title track showcase a nice selection of Modal and Blues tunes that swing hard while offering sizzling charts for Josselyn and the hired guns to really dig into, and they don’t disappoint.
Organist Brian Charette and Drummer Noel Sagermans are featured on all seven tunes and provide Josselyn with just the right amount of stalwart accompaniment and fiery blowing needed to elevate the session charts to their full potential. If this album consisted solely of this trio of players that would indeed be enough for most. However, Josselyn went above and beyond by bringing Saxophonist Scott Robert Avidon, Trumpeter James Gibbs and Trombonist Caleb Rumley into the mix for some rousing interpretations of the music presented to them.
“Clarisse”, “Shape Shifter” and Coltrane’s “Equinox” are but a few prime examples of this interaction as each player gets to let loose over the changes with a commanding energy and creative individualism that speaks of years of paying their dues. They all sound great together, and – at least to my ears – remind me of those great Blue Note style one-take wonder small group blowing sessions I so enjoy listening to from “back-in-the-day”. Well done all!
Speaking of well done, Trombonist Caleb Rumley gets extra credit for coming up with the horn arrangements that sparkle and shine throughout the album. They really add a layered texture of sound and dynamism that drives the music forward nicely.
Of course, at the center of the writing and the album is Jim Josselyn’s fine guitar playing that is a nice mix of time-honored and contemporary approaches. His comping is reverent while his lines are fluid and succinct fitting in nicely alongside the other talented players. His lessons with Ted Dunbar and Rodney Jones have certainly put him in good stead and the listener is all the better for it.
I have really enjoyed listening to Shape Shifter and if you’re interested, check out the tune below to see if this is an album worth checking out or owning. I think you just might dig it!
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