Former student and mentor, guitarists Joel Shapira and Jack DeSalvo, reunited recently via the internet, and soon found themselves in a New Jersey recording studio. The result is Inherence (Unseen Rain Records), an intriguing and luminous set of guitar duos which Shapira –sans DeSalvo–will celebrate on February 5th at the Black Dog Cafe in St. Paul’s Lowertown Arts District. Standing in for DeSalvo (unable to get to Minnesota from the East Coast) will be Minnesota’s own guitar guru, Dean Granros.
St. Paul native Joel Shapira studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, as well as with Tal Farlow, Joe Pass, Sharon Isbin, and Anthony Cox. Active in the Twin Cities for the past 16 years, he leads his trio and quartet, provides the instrumental half of the popular duo, Charmin (Michelle) and Shapira and coleads their expanded Charmin and Shapira and Friends. He’s led the ensembles Triplicate and Pooches Playhouse and frequently appears with Dean Magraw, Pete Whitman, John Devine, Vic Volare, and a who’s who list of area vocalists. Joel’s previous recordings include two releases with Charmin Michelle (Pure Imagination, Dawning and Daylight), his quartet debut (Open Lines) and two albums with Triplicate (Triplicate, Day and Age).
Jack DeSalvo picked up the guitar at age 8 and was playing in rock bands by his early teens. Soon he discovered the blues and picked up mandolin and harmonica. But hearing a recording of the Mahavishnu Orchestra turned him onto modern jazz, particularly Coltrane and early Miles, and Jack began to study classical guitar and composition as well as improvisation. After playing around New Jersey clubs for a while, he enrolled at the Berklee College of Music and studied George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concepts. Returning to New York, he continued composiing and began studying with Bill Connors (Return to Forever), who encourage him to meld his classical and jazz approaches. Jack built his international reputation as a member of D3, Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society, and in duo with vibist Arthur Lipner, playing electric and acoustic guitars.
One of the Midwest’s most accomplished guitarists, Dean Granros co-founded of one of the Twin Cities seminal experimental jazz groups, “The Whole Earth Rainbow Band” in 1970, and in 1974 he created and wrote for “Lapis,” an ensemble dedicated to exploring composition with structured improvisation. From 1985 through 1993, Dean joined former Weather Report drummer, Eric Kamau Gravatt, in the high energy post-bop band, Kamanari. He co-founded the progressive and virtuosic improvising trio F*K*G in 1995 with saxophonist Scott Fultz and drummer Dave King. In 2002, he joined George Cartwright’s band Curlew, and about a year later began playing weekly at the Artist Quarter with the exploratory quartet, How Birds Work. Granros continues to perform locally with groups such as Starry Eyed Lovelies (with Mike Lewis, Anthony Cox and Dave King), FKG and How Birds Work. His ensemble “AntiGravity” explores new directions in improvisational composition.
Inherence (2014, Unseen Rain Records)
Joel and Jack first met in a Tower Records in Greenwich Village about 20 years ago after Shapira had moved from Berklee in Boston to studies at the Mannes School for Music in New York. “Great musicians worked and hung out at Tower,” Joel said in a recent interview with Bill Steiger. “Right away, just by talking, I could tell that Jack and I had a lot of musical common ground. We both played with our fingers, like flamenco guitarists, instead of using picks. We shared a love of classical music as well as jazz. I ended up studying guitar and music theory with Jack. He taught me about the commitment involved in playing jazz, especially in New York City, where great players were a dime a dozen… New York was the best city to start performing as a professional, and, of course, studying with Jack was the icing on the cake.”
After losing contact for the past two decades, social media brought student and mentor together. “The internet changed everything,” said Joel. “A couple of searches and—boom!–there he was.” The two talked about getting together to record some duets at Jack’s brother’s studio in New Jersey. And thus in one afternoon at Beanstudio with engineer Jim DeSalvo, the pair recorded Inherence without rehearsals. “It was a challenge,” said Joel, ” but I was so excited to be in New York and recording with Jack that the occasion reached a sort of spiritual vibe. For me, it felt like the full circle element on the music we had worked on years ago… A quality recording, made under that kind of time constraint brought out what I feel is the best in jazz musicians. No rehearsal. Let’s just do it. Let’s play! Inherence captures more of that improvisational quality than anything I’ve ever played.”
That afternoon session produced 11 tracks — four Wayne Shorter compositions (“Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum,” “House of Jade,” “Virgo” and “Nefertiti”), Ralph Towner’s “Celeste,” the great standard “Just Friends,” three DeSalvo originals, and two spontaneous improvisations from the duo.
DeSalvo’s “Instance” opens the set, a rather insistent and virtuosic display with a more tender midsection. Jack’s “Naiads” follows with a more defined melody, a more conversational collaboration as if friends are swapping life stories. The title track has a more jagged rhythm– a more animated conversation filled with playful jokes and more serious recollections, equally shared and magnificently played. Of the Wayne Shorter pieces, “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” is alternately driving and melodic; “Virgo,” “House of Jade” and the closing “Nefertiti” are luxurious meanders for two. “Just Friends” picks up the pace with an energetic exchange, while Ralph Towner’s “Celeste” is spacious and songful, one line bleeding into the next like watercolors.
The two spontaneous compositions, “Joja” and “January East” offer the most interesting harmonies and rhythms of the set, a pair of experiments that highlight the mutual trust and respect among these guitarists who show no fear of the unknown, just a willingness to challenge each other; ultimately the listener accepts the challenge and hangs on for the ride.
Inherence is defined as a “state of being a natural or integral part of something” or “the state of being present, current existence.” The musical reunion of Jack DeSalvo and Joel Shapira is indeed a state of being present, in the moment, each artist essential to the existence of each note.
The Black Dog offers an intimate environment well suited to the music of Inherence, and the substitution of Dean Granros for Jack DeSalvo is well suited to the interaction with Joel Shapira. This pairing will naturally alter the interaction, creating new music.
The Black Dog is located at 308 Prince Street (at Broadway) in St Paul’s Lowertown; www.blackdogstpaul.com. Music begins at 7:30 pm. CDs available at the show and by direct mail order – contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org