The possibilities of the vibe are all too often neglected or overlooked. In proper hands it is a powerful and beautiful instrument; however, when we hear it in music today it is normally an adornment ? color and chords. And, unfortunately so, modern vibe playing habitually lacks intensity ? becoming a mud that the other instrumentalists must strive to overcome ? so it often becomes pushed to the back of an ensemble, or it is left on its own to merely be new-age-elevator-music. Mathias Lupri does not fall into these trappings ? he brings the vibes to the fore, and his mastery gives them the life they deserve.
Shadow of the Vibe is the most recent offering from this impressive vibist. On it he gives the listener a chance to hear the vibes played as they should be: clean, powerful, intense and beautiful. His soloing is very good. Track after track, he takes the listener to the brink of freedom, and then back to the confines of the tune ? never sounding lost or grabbing for notes. Unfortunately, sometimes his solos lacks the virtue of silence, and his vocalizations can distract from his playing. However, these are small indiscretions, and do not detract from the obvious: that he is one of the best vibe soloists of today.
His rhythm and solo backing are equally impressive. Offering a rhythmic a foundation and providing solid voicings to support the ensemble, Lupri clearly sets a high standard for this set.
The rest of the ensemble, unfortunately, shades in comparison to Lupri. George Garzone (sax) plays some nice solos (Fast Corners and Beatrice are standouts), but too often he seems uninspired, falling into the ?workman? category. John Lockwood (bass) and Sebastiaan de Krom (drums) follow suit, too often become ?workmen? themselves. While this has the effect of elevating Lupri?s playing, it does, at times, detract from the session as a whole.
This is not say there are not jaw-dropping lines and intense playing (clearly all involved are excellent musicians), but it is clear that Lupri stands above the rest. As the group plays together more (let?s hope they stay together for years to come), this division will become less apparent ? perfection for the ensemble could be just a breath away.
All things considered, this is a highly recommended recording, and is a must for anyone who regularly stays away from vibe features ? Lupri is definitely no new-age-elevator-attendant. He is impressive, and able to give the vibes the life they deserve. Shadow of the Vibe highlights his burgeoning mastery and is a sign of greatness to come for this quartet.