Genre blending is pretty much the essence of jazz–it was born as an unruly mishmash of blues and European concert music; later Dizzy Gillespie introduced Latin grooves, and musicians like Randy Weston and Max Roach injected strong doses of African rhythm. More recently there have been efforts to braid jazz’s improvisational spirit into ethnic traditions, and one of the prime movers has been guitarist Brad Shepik. With a sound that synthesizes John Scofield and Bill Frisell but mimics neither, he’s worked in such disparate settings as Dave Douglas’s Tiny Bell Trio, Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, and Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio. But in the collective Pachora and in his own group, Shepik plays mostly original music that infuses Balkan, Turkish, North African, and Persian traditions with the fluidity and rhythmic agility of jazz. On his solo debut, The Loan, and his forthcoming The Well (both on Songlines), Shepik (on guitar, Portuguese guitar, banjo, and Turkish saz and cumbus) and saxophonist Peter Epstein play labyrinthine unison lines with an Arabic twang as drummer Michael Sarin and percussionist Seido Salifoski mete out grooves with elaborate time signatures; electric bass (played by Tony Scherr or Skuli Sverrisson) acts as a kind of stretchy glue. The exotic harmonies and difficult rhythms provide some very interesting and substantive improvisational opportunities, but Shepik and his cohorts never betray their source material or blow the mood with virtuosic indulgence. Shepik will be joined here by Epstein, Sarin, and electric bassist Fima Ephron. Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Caroline Mardok.