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Xylophobia by Steve Shaprio

First off, I want to say that I had not heard of Steve Shapiro prior topopping this disc in my player. I have no previous knowledge of himprior to this recording. Steve Shapiro offers us this finecollection of his Marimba and Vibes based smooth jazz. This is somegreat stuff, if you have an appreciation for Marimba and Vibes (which Ido). Steve has a full band backing him up, includinghorns. According to the profile, this is Steve's debut Vibes CD, butSteve has been working professionally since 1985. The profile sheetalso states that Steve appeared on Steely Dan's Two Against Naturedisc. Steve has been around the scene for years, and it shows in histalents.

My overall impression of this CD is that it maintains enough variety to keepyour attention, while also maintaining continuity. I love this disc.

Let's talk about some of the tracks:

1. Superdeluxe

This is a great kick off tune, and sets a solid groove. Steve showshis strong composition skills right off the bat. This tune featuresnice horn arrangements, and some great piano work by Kevin Hays.Nothing wrong here, and you can't help but enjoy the song. Abass solo by Marc Johnson adds that extra touch, which starts this CD off with afull sounding introduction to Steve's talents.

2. Circular Bossa

Another Shapiro composition, which fulfills the title. This hasthe textbook Bossa Nova feel. The featured opening leadinstrument is the harmonica, which adds a nice difference to the soft elegantfeel. Then Steve takes over on the Vibes, and we settle into afeel that made me think of dinner on a cruise ship. Thetrouble with this type of song is that it ends up sitting in the background ofjust about every event. Still a very nice piece, and verysoothing.

3. Xylophobia

The third track is another of Steve's, and this one has another solid grooveto it. The opening lead melody is carried by both the Marimba andthe horns. Tim Ries, Michael Davis, and Jim Hynes give us anice full sound for the horn section. This is a basic smoothjazz tune, with a medium tempo. Right when I'm ready to call this a soultune, we change up to a straight jazz swing tempo. Kevin Haystakes over on the piano, and we have the sound of a basic jazz trio (drums,bass, and piano) going. This is a welcome surprise, to whatwas becoming a predictable tune. I applaud Steve for thisrisk. I like it. We settle back into the opening groove,and are treated to an impressive Marimbasolo.

4. Just You

Here we have a Pat Bergeson tune, which opens with ambientVibes. We are then introduced to the melody with Vibes and acousticguitar provided by Pat. This has a decidedly different feel from thefirst three tunes, which is a good thing. Steve does a mostexcellent job of soloing over the acoustic guitar. Nice quiet piece.

5. Ennui

This is another of Steve's compositions, but has a more tribal feel toit. We have some tribal percussion and some interesting effects onthe Marimba, driving us into an almost techno feel. Then we have thetechno drums kick in, but not with the overbearing dance club feel.More of a background driving feel. The horns carry the openingmelody, while the Marimba holds down the rhythm. A bridge in themiddle, features Vibes and acoustic guitar, and then adds the rest of the groupwhile losing the tribal feel. This is a nice changeup, to helpbreakup potential monotony for the listener. This tune is anothernice change, while still within the continuity of the overall release.

6. A Remark You Made

Here we have a version of the classic Weather Report tune. I cansay I honestly enjoy this version as much as I do theoriginal. Steve does a great job of recreating Jaco's leadline, and Marc Johnson does a nice job of keeping the fretless bass feel of theoriginal. Marc also carries the lead in unison with Steve, aswas done with the original. Some nice guitar work and a smooth groove,help add some texture to the composition. Steve's lead Marimba workis much more soothing to me than the synth that Zawinul used in theoriginal. I also like the more traditional jazz feel to this, eventhough I am a fan of the original Weather Report version. Nice jobSteve.

7. And Then...

We are back to Steve's writing, and we are treated to another quiet balladpiece. Piano introduces the song, and the Vibes come in to accompanythe piano. We then get the drums and bass added, in soft jazzfeel. Guitar decorates the background, but Vibes are upfrontcarrying a solid soft melody. Marc Johnson treats us to a great basssolo, adding to the soft cafe type feel. This tune takes me into asmoke filled club that's only about half full, and nobody is paying attention tothe band. Maybe Bogart should be walking through thisscene.

8. Miltolgy

Steve's writing for us again, and here we kick off with a standard jazzswing feel. The Vibes take the lead melody, and this song justswings. The nice traditional feel definitely reminds me of the great Lionel Hampton, but updated. Another great tune, in my opinion.

9. Semblence

Here we have a Keith Jarrett composition. This is all about theVibes. Solo Vibes, and perfectly played. Short andsweet, at right about a minute and a half. What more can I say.

10. Fuzzy Logic

Another Shapiro piece, which starts out with solo bass. Then weget the rest of the band, with a nice Vibe based melody. The hornarrangement does a nice job of supporting the melody. PatBergeson delivers some tasty guitar work on this one. Nice pianosolo from Kevin Hays. We do have the pleasure of getting a mid-songdrum solo from Danny Gottlieb, while the rest of the group holds down thegroove. I particularly like the quick moment when we hear the hornspulling a riff from the Odd Couple TV theme song. There's not muchmore to say about the tune. Just a solid song with a smooth jazzgroove.

11. Sam's Tune

This is the second Pat Bergeson composition on the release, and starts offwith a nice acoustic guitar. Then the keyboards, bass, and drumsjoin in. Acoustic guitar and Marimba share the melody, with the Vibesechoing the melody. Very nice mid-tempo song with softpercussion. Nothing overbearing here. I like Pat'sguitar style, and I like the way Steve worked both the Vibes andMarimbas.

12. Rain

We end with a final Shapiro tune, and this one starts off with the ambientfeel. Synth pads and acoustic guitar provide the foundation, while Steveand Pat carry the lead melody. This is a soft ending tune, whichincludes some nice soloing from Steve on his Marimba. Pat also addssome nice work that is only on the acoustic guitar. It's all verysoft, and makes me think of the journey coming to an end.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Shaprio
  • CD Title: Xylophobia
  • Genre: Smooth Jazz
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Curious Jazz Records
  • Tracks: Superdeluxe, Circular Bossa, Xylophobia, Just You, Ennui, A Remark You Make, And Then..., Miltology, Semblence, Fuzzy Logic, Sams Tune
  • Musicians: Steve Shapiro (vibes, marimba), Pat Bergeson (guitars, harmonica), Marc Johnson (bass), Kevin Hays (piano, wurlitzer), Danny Gottlieb (drums), Tim Ries (tenor sax, flute), Michael Davis (trombone), Jim Hynes (trumpet, flugelhorn)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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