COMPOSERS: Andy Sheppard Quartet
ALBUM TITLE: Surrounded By Sea
PERFORMER: Andy Sheppard (saxophone), Eivind Aarset (guitar), Michel Benita (bass) etc
CATALOGUE NO: 471 4273
Since his recording debut in 1987, Sheppard has consistently impressed with his ability to achieve a commanding presence in a wide variety of contexts, both in terms of ensemble size and stylistic approach. His tone on tenor can be tough or velvety as the music requires and, for my money, he is one of a very small number of players who make an acceptable noise on soprano.
The compositions are mainly the band’s, though there is a three-part examination of a traditional song and Elvis Costello’s ‘I Want to Vanish’. They cohere perfectly. The quartet comprises Sheppard’s Trio Libero, which was a freer improvising group, plus Aarset, whose backdrops intensify the atmosphere and re-inforce the quartet’s clearer structure. Produced by ECM proprietor Manfred Eicher, the sound is characteristically detailed and well-focused yet never harshly sharp. Benita, who plays beautifully and contributes some of the most engaging elements, particularly benefits.