The duo of vibraphonist Harry Sheppard and bassist Erin Wright crosses musical boundaries and generations. The seventysomething Sheppard, who moved to Houston in the mid-'80s, is deservedly a legend around town. Back in the '50s, Sheppard was playing in New York City with the likes of Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman and opening for Duke Ellington and Ben Webster. Respected by his peers and fellow players, Sheppard is a performer whose vibework has been recognized by Down Beat (the ultimate jazz magazine) and Playboy (the ultimate one-arm-reader magazine).
In the '60s Sheppard horrified purists when he electrified his vibraphone. Using electronic pickups and effects, Sheppard created something of a vibrasynth, putting an array of tones and timbres at his stick tips. He can sound like a guitarist (acoustic or electric), a synth-symphony or just a regular old vibraphonist. What stands out about Sheppard's playing, however, is not the effects. It's the musical substance. His effects are used not to shock but to communicate ideas.
A thirtysomething bass player with serious chops, Wright is a member of the Los Angles-based all-female jazz band Maiden Voyage. When not playing with Maiden Voyage, Wright's a regular on the local scene, sometimes leading her own gigs, but more often playing with Sheppard. Wright and Sheppard have been gigging together for six years (working every Tuesday night at the River Cafe) and have the rapport one expects from a long-standing friendship. Together they convey energy, a sense of adventure and solid musicianship. Whether experimenting with electronic effects or playing standards by the book, the duo of Sheppard and Wright is a delight. (Paul J. MacArthur).
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Harry Sheppard and Erin Wright perform with drummer Joel Fulgham on Saturday, November 27, at Cezanne, 4100 Montrose, at 9 p.m. For more information, call (713)522-9621.