Downbeat Magazine
August 2002, pg. 62
Bob Sheppard
In the Now
Sirocco Jazz 1018
3-1/2 stars

In the Now CD

In The Now is overdue. Bob Sheppard is an accomplished and distinctive multireed player, a world-class sideman (Akiyoshi-Tabackin, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Steely Dan) and one of the busiest studio musicians in Los Angeles. Yet he has made only one previous album under his own name, and that was 11 years ago (Tell Tale Signs, Windham Hill Jazz, produced by Steely Dan's Walter Becker).
    In order to get a new album out, he had to make it himself. The six trio tracks here were recorded over several years at Sheppard's home studio. (Four tracks with the lyrical guitar of Larry Koonse were professionally recorded and offer better sound.) Fortunately, the British label Sirocco Jazz has picked up this material for distribution. While In The Now lacks the superb sonic quality of most Sirocco releases, it compensates with the relaxed, natural vibe of music played among friends, not for posterity but for joy.
   
Sheppard is a suave, sophisticated player, with a seductive suppleness and sheen to his sound on both tenor and soprano saxophones. He approaches every musical idea indirectly, with an oblique sense of understatement. Sheppard is always cryptic, in a friendly way, and he can make even his most complex harmonic and melodic concepts sound approachable. He does not so much perform Michel Legrand's "The Summer Knows" as allude to it, twisting and turning it on soprano, in an unhurried waltz. '"Round Midnight" is also distorted in a flattering fashion, its melody fragmented, its meter rushed.
    While Sheppard's approach is idiosyncratic, it is not limited. He touches free blues ("Arrythmia"), tumbling, effortlessly flowing celebrations of Cole Porter ("Everything I Love"), and ballads like reveries ("Alone," "Easy Living"). His style with ballads is genfle and deft, but mostly buoyant His soft, round tenor tone bounces over "Easy Living" like a big balloon. --Thomas Conrad.