Over the past few months, Twin Cities-based guitarist Joel Shapira and his quartet have been previewing Open Lines, a spirited set that brings together an outstanding bop and beyond ensemble with saxophonist Pete Whitman, bassist Tom Lewis and drummer Dave Schmalenberger. On May 19 at Hell’s Kitchen, Open Lines finally gets its proper CD Release Party.
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 many years, he co-leads his own small jazz groups (including Triplicate and Pooch's Playhouse) as well as playing classical duets with saxophonist/flutist Paul Harper and providing the instrumental half of Charmin & Shapira. He has frequently appeared with John Devine, Doug Little, Vic Volare, Larry McDonough, and Lee Engele among others. His business Joel Shapira Productions provides music for weddings and private events. He is also the director of contemporary music at Gethsemane Lutheran church in Maplewood.
A graduate of jazz studies at North Texas State University, Pete Whitman’s credits on tenor, alto and flute include performing with Randy Brecker, Jack McDuff, and the Woody Herman Orchestra. In addition to leading his X-Tet and smaller ensembles in the Twin Cities, Pete works regularly with the Jazz MN Orchestra and Laura Caviani’s emsembles. A few years ago, Whitman was commissioned to score the film, Been Rich All My Life, about a quartet of octogenarians reprising their dancing days in vaudeville. A dedicated educator, Whitman heads the Woodwind and Brass Department at St. Paul’s McNally Smith College, teaching saxophone, improvisation, and arranging.
Bassist Tom Lewis is a busy sideman throughout the Twin Cities, a “straight-ahead, hard bop, and bebop bassist and he swings like anything” (Don Berryman, Jazz Police). Tom performs with the Phil Hey Quartet, Phil Aaron Trio and is a first-call player for many area vocalists and bands.
Drummer Dave Schmalenberger has performed with John Scofield, Marvin Stamm, Larry Grenadier, Richard Davis, Steve Turre, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Cab Calloway, the Fifth Dimension, and Ernie Krivda. Principal timpanist with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra for ten years, he has also toured with the Summit Brass Ensemble and the Intergalatic Contemporary Ensemble (“I.C.E.”), and performs locally with Pooches’ Playhouse, Laura Caviani, Joan Griffith and more. He’s assistant head of percussion at McNally Smith College of Music.
Open Lines offers colorful, sometimes sublime arrangements of an eclectic set of great jazz covers, ranging from the boppishly straight ahead (“Have You Met Miss Jones”, “It Could Happen to You”) and luxuriously subdued (“Nardis,” “How Insensitive” and “Time Remembered”), to adventurously dark (“Invitation”), just a bit funky (“Turnaround”), and teetering on the edge (Frank Foster’s “Simone” and even every high school jazz band’s cover, “Confirmation”). There’s an open feel to the quartet’s interplay, their “open lines” of communication that inform the disk’s title.
Here the Joel Shapira Quartet play tunes from Open Lines at Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S. 9th Street in downtown Minneapolis, 6-9 pm on May 19th. CD available at the show or CD Baby.