Reviews for "Speechless"
If you've ever heard a person finish another's thought, you know that those two people are on the same wavelength. If Nichols and Zupe are not twin brothers in this life, they probably were in another. They are certainly on the same wavelength musically. Throughout this recording, the keyboard finishes or echoes the guitar player's idea and vice versa. These guys are in sync and it is clear that they have been playing together for years.
When I first listened to this recording, I heard Jeff Beck, Joe Zawinul, Sting and Lyle Mays playing in a reunited Steely Dan with a horn section from New Orleans. Really. This is an album that fans will love and musicians will be amazed by. This group of players is clearly a cut above the rest of us. When I discovered that the drums are all samples and loops, I was even more impressed. The sequencing and arranging of this recording is masterful. It's challenging to get a group of musicians this tight and it's even harder to make a machine sound like a group of musicians this tight! Clearly a lot of time and expertise was put into this project.
Words alone cannot adequately express my feelings about this masterpiece. I believe discerning listeners will connect to it deeply, and it's one that will be in my collection forever.
Roy Elkins - Founder & CEO -Broadjam Inc.
Speechless is a twelve-song instrumental album, and the result of a three-year musical summit between Altoona-based one-man band, entertainer and composer Zupe and Somerset-based guitar vet Dave Nichols.
With Zupe playing keys, trumpet and trombone and Nichols playing electric guitars, the longtime collaborators match musical wits on compositions that blend funk, rock, jazz and blues flavors. A number of musical guest contributors color and flesh things out; including Jamie Peck on sax, flute and pennywhistle, Jerry Sandusky on sax, Bill Smith on bass and Chuck Knepper on acoustic guitar and bass. Amazingly, there is no singular drummer on the album, but drum loops and samples adeptly weaved and sequenced together into a tight, percussive backdrop.
Zupe and Nichols ace the challenge of giving each composition its own distinctive style and flavor through their various arrangements, meters and modes of instrumental attack. The continuous interaction, nip and tuck between the two musicians and their guests provides a constant highlight throughout the album. Many flavors come to play here, including robust R&B on the frisky opener “Step On It,” swing-styled boogie on “Dear Deke,” a bold, brassy Big-Easy-styled blues-jazz flavor on “Rib Joint,” adventurous funk on “A Dash of Dementia” with its tribal outback-flavored midsection, and reggae-meets-blues overtones on “Captain & Coke.” Compositions such as “Chronologic Breakdown,” “Do the Math” and “Screamin’ Mimi” hint at Steely Dan-styled jazz-funk; while “Creepin’” and the busy shuffle “Caterpillar” recall some of Jeff Beck’s and Jan Hammer’s jazz-rock experiments from the 70’s.
The arrangements are efficient and tight, avoiding bombast or overblown jamming; nary a note is wasted.
Produced by Zupe and Nichols and mostly recorded at Zupe’s Woposonic Studios in Altoona, the mixes are bright and balanced, giving each instrumental component clarity and voice. Every track shines on its own merit; yet the album as a whole is consistent and cohesive. The musicianship is constantly excellent, the moods are colorful, and the album sounds like it was a lot of fun to create. Zupe & Nichols hit a clear-cut home run with Speechless, a tasty masterpiece that will have listeners revisiting it again and again to enjoy its vibes and uncover its subtleties. Fans of top-notch musicianship will easily find this worth savoring.
Jim Price - The Backyard Rocker