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(Published: August 10, 2011)

On Soundproof (to be released September 27th by Rhombus Records), vibraphonist Dave Shank showcases ten new compositions that feature the highly interactive, swinging interplay of a stellar quintet comprised of bassist John Patitucci, pianist Barry Miles, drummer Terry Silverlight and saxophonist Mike Migliore. From start to finish, Shank and his veteran crew exhibit a remarkable chemistry with a penchant for collective improvisation in the moment. Sparks fly on all the solo choruses throughout, but it's the remarkable cohesion of the consummate pros in the rhythm section that really makes these tunes sparkle. Says Shank, "The feel thing was happening immediately on all the tunes. Stylistically, it was a bit different from track to track, but it always felt really good. And that's a testament to that rhythm section. It's such a key element in making music. I've played in rhythm sections where it was just brutal, where you couldn't wait to pack up and go home. So when it happens like it did on this session, where it just all gelled so nicely, it's such a pleasure."

At least some of the natural chemistry of the rhythm section comes from the fact that pianist Miles and drummer Silverlight are brothers who have been playing together off and on since the '70s. (Silverlight was a 14-year-old wunderkind when he appeared on Miles' 1971 fusion manifesto, White Heat, which also featured guitar greats John Abercrombie, Pat Martino and saxophonist Lew Tabackin). Bassist Patitucci, a longtime member of Wayne Shorter's Quartet and a former member of Chick Corea's Elektric and Akoustic bands, was on the same Los Angeles jazz scene with Shank back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but this recording marks the first time they worked together. Saxophonist Migliore burst onto the scene in the late '70s with Maynard Ferguson's band and later solidified his reputation with Bob Belden's band, the Count Basie Orchestra and the Vanguard Orchestra. Together they establish an uncanny group-think on Soundproof.

The kinetic title track kicks off with Shank and Migliore engaged in tight unisons on the aggressively swinging head before the saxophonist launches into an inspired tenor solo. Shank follows with an invigorating solo of his own on top of the rhythmically shifting undercurrent supplied by Miles, Silverlight, and Patitucci. Miles also turns in one of his many outstanding piano solos here. Shank and Migliore repeat their vibes/tenor hook up on "Alla Brevity," which is underscored by Miles' spiky comping and dissonant filigrees. Patitucci and Miles also turn in superb solos on this edgy, angular blues.

"Darkening," an evocative waltz-time ballad underscored by Silverlight's alluring brushwork and Patitucci's contrapuntal bass lines, was inspired by a Kenny Kirkland composition "Chance" from the late pianist's 1991 self-titled debut on Verve Records. Migliore's soprano sax blends beautifully with Shank's vibes while Miles adds a moving piano solo on this elegant offering. "I really like the sound of soprano and vibes together," says the composer-bandleader. "Mike had to fight to play tenor on some of the stuff because I probably could've had him play soprano on everything."

"Fair or Foul" is Shank's radical reinvention of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer standard, "Come Rain Or Come Shine," while on "Some Nice" he has his way with Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," with similarly satisfying results. Migliore turns in a robust, Sonny Rollins-influenced tenor solo on the latter piece. "At Ease" is a buoyant and breezy midtempo swinger that gives plenty of solo space to Shank and Miles, each of whom delivers in scintillating fashion. "Snoopin'" is an intricate, probing number that Shank says was inspired by the late composer-keyboardist Don Grolnick and contains one of his most blatantly bop-influenced vibes solos on the record. "Of course, Bags (Milt Jackson) was someone I listened to and tried to emulate," he says, "but I really didn't listen to vibes players so much coming up. When I play, I try and think like a horn player. And I would say my favorite all time jazz player would have to be Freddie Hubbard. Not that I play like him, but there's a certain spirit, a certain kind of phrasing, a certain way to play that I'm trying to get to that comes from him."

Drummer Silverlight is prominently featured on the powerful, aggressively swinging "Last Resort," erupting at the tag with polyrhythmic abandon on the kit. Migliore blows an outstanding soprano sax solo on the ambitious suite-like "A Minor Distraction," which opens on a chamber-like note with Migliore blowing long tones on soprano sax over Patitucci's bowed bass. The piece settles into an undulating 3/4 groove that Migliore and Shank sail over in unison with sweeping lyricism before they shift into uptempo swing mode with Migliore blowing fervently. Says Shank, "There's a lot of really good sax solos on this record, but my favorite is Mike's on 'Minor Distraction.' That soprano solo is amazing." The collection closes on a poignant note with the intimate piano trio number "Miss M," dedicated to Shank's late mother-in-law, Emma Melancon.

"This project has been exhilarating," says Shank of Soundproof. "It's what I've always wanted to do. I've played in numerous jazz fusion styled bands but it took me a long time to get around to what I've really always wanted to do, which was a straight ahead jazz record." The New York-based vibraphonist is already hard at work on a new set of compositions and intends to return to the studio with this same quintet sometime next Spring.

About the Artist:

Born in Chicago, Shank played trumpet - and not too well, by the way -- in high school. He served in the Armed Forces before relocating to Las Vegas, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theory and Composition at the University of Nevada. He apprenticed backing headline acts on the Las Vegas Strip and performing with local jazz groups, then moved to Los Angeles, where he played sessions for Walter Murphy, Mike Post, Quincy Jones and others while also playing for headlining artists Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Linda Ronstadt, Bette Midler and Luther Vandross. He played vibraphone in guitarist Tim Weston's popular jazz quintet, Wishful Thinking, appearing on the band's 1985 self-titled debut, 1986's Think Again, 1988's Way Down West and 1990's That Was Then. The band toured extensively through the late '80s, performing at prestigious jazz festivals with the likes of Yellowjackets, John Scofield, Dave Sanborn, Spyro Gyra, and Alphonse Mouzon. After relocating to New York, Shank worked extensively on Broadway and in 2000 was called to play a vibraphone solo on Steely Dan's Two Against Nature. His 2009 album ...In Due Time, on Rhombus Records, was co-produced by Terry Silverlight. His latest on Rhombus, 2011's Soundproof, was produced by Tim Weston of Soul Coast Productions and engineered by the late, great Roger Nichols. Says Shank, "It's a challenging journey bouncing from one genre to another, but with this new quintet record, I really feel like I've finally come home."

More Information: http://daveshankmusic.com

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