I know Andy Sheppard first and foremost from his trio collaborations with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, little gems of modern jazz, and easy to recommend. I only have two albums he released under his own name, "Nocturnal Tourist", and "Dancing Man & Woman", two albums which bring a mix of styles and genres, with fusion, world music and modern electronic influences. Now on his debut on ECM, the British saxophonist moves this personal aesthetic into the ECM range, softening the edges a bit, slowing down the tempo a notch, and increasing the sound quality. Here too, world influences abound, not only because of Kuljit Bhamra on tabla and percussion, who adds an Indian flair, but also because of John Parricelli's Spanish guitar sounds, with Eivind Aarset's guitar and electronics throwing a more modern flavor into the mix. Arild Andersen plays the bass. Without a doubt the quality of the delivery is excellent, not only because of the skills of the musicians, but also because of the perfect production. But that does unfortunately not lead to great music. It is taking no risks, but then really no risks at all. The result is something that might have been played by dozens of bands, maybe not with this level of execuction, but certainly with the same lack of inspiration. The old recipe: if you lack ideas, open your bag of skills, mix them up, and something new may come up. Yet the end result is often a bland soup, not very spicy, lukewarm, something you can swallow without any risk of either burning your lips, throat, or having steam coming out of your ears. And like soup, it doesn't fill the stomach, and it makes you hungry for a real meal. There's no substance, no musical statement, no personal vision. So, sentimental stuff, with possibly commercial ambitions, but clearly not musical ones. What a disappointment, because Sheppard is a delicate player with great skills.
Listen to an excerpt from "Nave Nave Moe"