Jake Schepps and Expedition
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Jake Schepps and Expedition

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"From JazzMando.com"

Jake Schepps is not your typical, or should we say "stereo-typical" banjo player. Admittedly, we were initially intrigued to review his latest CD, Ten Thousand Leaves, not so much because of his banjo competence, but because of his association and the production skills of mandolin virtuoso Matt Flinner. Digging deeper into Schepps project and his banjo playing, the allure of this first-class instrumentalist and gifted writer has been satisfying in itself.
Jake Schepps is easily labeled a progressive banjo player. The term is hardly oxymoronic anymore, with trailblazers such as indefatigably versatile Bela Fleck and jazzer Pat Cloud, there is already a new standard credibility of the instrument breaking the bounds of banjo convention, producing amazing literature beyond folk/hillbilly or "swamp" music. Schepps' compositional skills alone demonstrate this propensity, but we enjoy his playing as well.

Starting off with a well-executed, convincing Astor Piazzolla tango, "Todo Buenos Aires," he and his fellow string bandmates pull off a very musical, dare we say "danceable" interpretation. Complete with percussive pizzicato embellishments, string slides, and behind the bridge special effects, the ensemble captures the magic Brazilian balance of serious playfulness, proficient abandon.

The crew slips back into Americana flavor with a beautiful composition by Matt Flinner, "The Seagull" written especially for the project. Tastefully understated, the group trades support roles seamlessly, soloing and delivering and re-rendering the song's memorable theme. The follow-up "Origami" is a nice contrast, a more sedate reflective piece with an elegant oriental zest to it.

The next three selections comprise a suite of compositions based on a Richard Avedon series of portraits titled, "In the American West." Reflective, often lullaby-like, the songs convey beautifully a slice of the American Prairie and a glimpse of the Rockies.

Jake takes us south and treats us to a little recreation with some swamp boogaloo in "Bluegrass Schlep," penned by the group's guitarist Greg Schochet, who also demonstrates his own accomplished mandolinist chops, and follows with a more cerebral compound meter original composition, "The Zipper."

The banjo is somewhat unjustly characterized as an "obnoxious" instrument, but Schepps once again defies the norm delivering a lovely string ballad/lullaby in "Lodi" written by bassist Eric Thorin. With a texturally serene touch, the song paradoxically blends complex harmonic structure only to be followed by a more folkish and down-to-earth toe-tapping song, "The Rise". Finishing off in calculated simplicity with "Cute-nik" one ponders how the banjo is given such a bad rap.

Jake Schepp's plays well and his music is beautiful. Rather than being overtly bold or edgy, his performance is covertly calculating and intuitive, melodies easy to remember, yet always fresh and never redundant. "Progressive" string bands should always be this easy to listen to. - Ted Eschliman, Jazzmando.com


Discography

2007: "Ten Thousand Leaves"
Produced by Matt Flinner

2005 "Expedition"
Produced by Greg Schochet

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Jake Schepps is known for his intelligent touch on the banjo and his imaginative variation on stringband music. He has studied traditional and progressive bluegrass with banjoists Mark Vann and Tony Trischka, as well as composition and jazz from trumpeter Dave Douglas and pianist Art Lande. Jake is a frequent contributor to Banjo Newsletter, the banjo community’s premier print journal, and also plays in the ‘chamber-grass’ ensemble Strings of Tao. In addition to music, Jake teaches emergency wilderness medicine around the world.

Ryan Drickey is armed with a Masters in Violin Performance and holds the 2007 RockyGrass Fiddle Championship. His indomitable abilities and experience stretch from American and Scandinavian fiddle tunes, to jazz, tango, and classical music.

Greg Schochet is an integral part of Colorado's music community, in demand as a performer, producer, and educator. Equally adept on guitar and mandolin, Greg is fluent in bluegrass, swing, country, folk, and blues. Greg was a founding member of Runaway Truck Ramp and currently performs with Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams, Colorado’s acclaimed honky-tonk and western swing band. Greg produced and performed on Jake’s CD "Expedition."

Eric Thorin has the ability to make everyone sound better. A bassist with an indefatigable groove and monster chops, he is in demand and often plays with Brother Mule, Matt Flinner, Drew Emmitt, Tony Furtado, K.C. Groves, and Art Lande. Eric teaches bass at the Yellowstone Jazz Festival. In 2004, Eric produced a collection of songs for Japanese elementary school children learning English.