By: Edward Blanco

One of the top-tier saxophonists of our time, Bob Sheppard is not just one of the finest musicians in Los Angeles; he is a jazz luminary with an international reputation. Close Your Eyes not only brings to the fore Sheppard’s talents as a composer and arranger, but his incredible skills as a multi-woodwind performer. Primarily known for his body of work as a tenor saxophonist, on this brilliant CD, Sheppard is also heard on the soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute, Piccolo, clarinet and bass clarinet.

If you want to know whether a particular album has the prospect of being something you’ll want to hear, a check of the personnel listing is always a clue. When you can convince pianist great Alan Pasqua, trumpet wonder Alex Sipiagen and veteran guitarist Larry Koonse to grace your album, you’ve more than started on the right track. Sheppard also enlists longtime friend John Beasley—who splits the piano and Hammond B3 organ time with Pasqua—brings in New York-based drumming sensation Antonio Sanchez, young bassist Gabe Noel and rounds out the group with percussionist Walter Rodriguez. The result of course is one sensational album offering a gritty cutting-edge modern jazz sound sure to resonate with all who are fortunate enough to sample.

The title piece opens the session with Sheppard wielding his mighty tenor against Pasqua’s B 3 organ and Sanchez’s cracking drums—all delivering firm statements and a portend of what’s to come. Guitarist Koonse appears on a couple of tracks of which the first is on “Surface Tension” where he plays along with the leader on as the liner notes state, “a labyrinthine unison melody for guitar and tenor saxophone.” Sipiagen’s horn work (trumpet and flugelhorn) is superb on Sheppard’s “Brain Fog” and Joe Henderson’s “Gazelle ” which by the way, also reveals excellent solos from Sheppard and pianist Beasley.

Kenny Barron’s “Phantoms” enjoys a new haunting arrangement providing for one of the bright moments of the album. Sheppard also borrows two tunes (“Lightness” and “All In A Row”) from pianist/composer Jeff Collela with whom he has previously recorded with. In closing, don’t “ Close Your Eyes” when sampling this disc for it will engage you with its sharp edges and powerful performances from Bob Sheppard and band. This is clearly one of the better jazz statements around sure to open your eyes to the best in jazz today.
Year: 2011 Label: BFM Jazz Artist Web: