“And I’m transfixed by the sense of perpetual motion, of an endless dance these two instruments can conjure up when locked in conversation. Flower Starter, the 2015 release from guitarist Brad Shepik and vibraphonist Tom Beckham gets that instrumental collaboration all alone in the spotlight where it’s appealing facets and enviable connectivity points can shine brightly.”
—Dave Sumner, www.birdistheworm.com

Flower Starter – About The New CD

The unique duo of vibraphonist Tom Beckham and guitarist Brad Shepik is a collaborative effort which seeks to explore a mutual language. These two diverse musicians have been writing pieces that highlight the wide range of stylistic nuances and high-wire delicacy available in the vibes-guitar duo format. Drawing upon influences of jazz, folk, and modern classical the duo creates an intimate and dynamic music that is sophisticated, lyrical, and richly layered.

flower_starter_cvrTheir debut recording entitled Flower Starter (2015) documents their unique interplay and features seven tracks of original tunes, plus the George Coleman tune “Blues Inside and Out.”

Beckham and Shepik have been playing together for more than 10 years—first as sidemen in George Schuller’s Circle Wide band, then later as bandmates in Shepik’s own quartet, resulting in the release of Shepik’s own critically acclaimed release Across The Way (Songlines Recordings). With Flower Starter, Shepik and Beckham continue to explore new ground, each contributing material for this dynamic new collaboration.

Beckham explains: “The inspiration for this collaboration with Brad came to me one night while packing up the vibes after a Circle Wide gig, and the sounds and phrases of what we had just played were still percolating in my head—especially a couple of duet interactions we got into during the set. I started to wonder what it would sound like if we were able to do a whole concert featuring just the two of us. Since we already seemed to be finishing each other’s phrases in the large group, the idea of a duo seemed like it could offer an even greater chance to explore our language.”

“For me the process of this group has been an ear opening experience,” agrees Shepik. “Not just for the fact of getting to play Tom’s tunes which are really inspiring in the degree to which they reflect his original voice and in how fun they are to play, but also this group has turned my focus to the sound of the guitar by itself and really opened up some new avenues in terms of hearing and how to play.  I’m really looking forward getting out there and playing this music for a live audience to see how it’s going to evolve!”

“Initially, we started to explore the duo just playing on standard jazz tunes that we know well,” says Beckham, “plus I had some tunes that I had written specifically for vibes and another chordal instrument that had yet to find a home, so we looked at those. Brad is always writing things and he brought some of his music to play—we even tried duo versions of tunes that we would usually play with his quartet. Soon a program seemed to emerge, as well as the joy from musically experimenting in this configuration.”

“What is so interesting to me about pairing the vibraphone and the guitar is the great range of dynamics you can achieve on both instruments. I want us to explore all these possibilities with our instruments, whether it’s over a jazz classic, an intricately composed piece, a blues drone, or a completely spontaneous statement. With Flower Starter, I think we’ve just begun to scratch the surface.”

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