Kyle Shepherd is on a new journey with whispers of the old

2014-07-07 17:54

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With the expected Grahamstown cold still being held at bay, revellers at the National Arts Festival got a different kind of chill in their bones. Audiences found themselves in the ghostly rapture of Kyle Shepherd’s new music.

The 27-year-old pianist and current 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz took to the stage on Friday night with new tunes to journey into a novel artistic plane.

Accompanied by a newly constituted quintet, the young leader dished out compositions from his latest album. It is a double CD that includes a selection of 21 new tracks collectively titled Dream State.

As if willing the piano to issue something more than his fingers could master, he sat with eyes closed, shoulders hunched over the keyboards and face looking as if at prayer. The brooding bass line churned from his rolling left hand, weaved, climbing with every set of phrases.

Those who came expecting to hear old favourites found only their light suggestion. The pianist was resolved to make new statements.

A song like Dylan Goes to Church – from his 2009 album Fine Art – which lifts off with a slight echo of its earlier treatment, morphs into a totally re-imaged musical creation. New compositions only carry light touches of the old hit.

It’s as if he is using the old to open a door for uninitiated audience members, who are then left to find their way into a new realm.

Like old truths for a new plane. This trope prevents the gathered music lovers from being passive. They are forced to be awake throughout the gig, like the band itself that is presenting the music for the first time.

The performance also served to introduce his followers to a new collaborator, Claude Cozens, on drums. The rest of the band was made up of Shane Cooper on bass, Buddy Wells on tenor saxophone and master trumpeter, Feya Faku.

» Shepherd will perform with Cooper and Jonno Sweetman in the Kyle Shepherd Trio tomorrow at 7:30pm at the DSG Hall. The band will go on tour around the country to promote the new album after the festival.

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