Thursday, 18 December 2008

Human Activity - a jazz suite on climate change by Brad Shepik

Human Activity premiere June 2008 at 55 Bar, New York: photo Scott Friedlander. Left to right:
Gary Versace* (piano, accordion), Drew Gress (Bass), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Tom Rainey* (drums), Brad Shepik* (guitar).
Jazz guitarist Brad Shepik composed and plays Human Activity: Sounding a Response to Climate Change which will be released on CD in Feb 2009.The 90-minute 10-part suite, commissioned by Chamber Music America, ranges musical cultures from the rough-edged "Blindspot (North America), to a lament for Antarctica, the arabesque "Waves (Asia)," and the Latin rhythms of South America (e.g. listen to "Lima" online).

One of the leaders of ethnojazz with its echoes of klezmer, Balkan and Turkish themes, he has played and recorded with jazz greats Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian; as well as various Seattle groups, Bulgarian Wedding Band, Quantara, Tridurga, Babkas and his own Trio*.

In an interview with Franz Matzner, Shepik says he based the suite on life experience, reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, as well as David Quammen and Edward Hoagland, and deep research in folk, world and indigenous music. A genuine jazz improvisation, a cry for action, a warning, an elegy, his Human Activity "focuses on how these issues affect us as people living on the earth" not just in the USA. "There is a piece for each of the seven continents and [for other] factors of climate change such as carbon, desertification, the warming of the oceans, the changing currents."

"I grew up outside of Seattle and spent a lot of time hiking, camping and fly fishing, also skiing in the Cascades as a kid and a young adult when I lived in Seattle. We would also sail through the San Juan and Gulf Islands every summer on my Dad's boat... in and around the subdivision where I grew up there were woods and creeks where we played. Most of that has been developed... rampant development, which led to more cars, traffic congestion and pollution... [and a] huge drop in the salmon population in Puget Sound.

"This spring I visited the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley which made a huge impression on me..the time that it took to create those things and the forces that created them... [I saw] an outdoor exhibit in Paris: the history of earth [in] a half a kilometer walk of 200 year old trees...There were 6 billion years represented there and the appearance of humans was only the last 20 feet..." (full text on All About Jazz)

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