The Brian Shapiro Band’s “It’s Amazing”

The Brian Shapiro Band’s It’s Amazing, the Philadelphia-based four-piece’s second album doesn’t contain a single song about COVID-19. You can hear it, however, in the subject matter of songs like the album opener “Ambitigeddon”, the hard-won wisdom of the album’s closing tracks “Take-n-Make” and “Savor”, and the self-lacerating isolation of tracks such as “Am Now” and the later “All of the Time”. 

Shapiro claims a theatrical lineage for his songwriting and it is apparent from the start. “Ambitigeddon”. It has an arrangement that sounds like it’s winding up, unwinding, and winding up again and again, but the effect isn’t hypnotic. Chiming guitar chords likewise hit with a light percussive quality and the song never seems to tie or waver off-course. He pairs Ben Gillece’s vibraphone and Alex Posmontier’s piano with great results during the second track “So Much”. They bring a lot to the song. Listen for Posmontier’s sneaky piano rolls taking the song from one passage into the next and how Gillece’s vibraphone brings lightens the song’s touch.

 “Am Now” opens with acoustic guitar and even that sort of traditional musical texture gets tweaked some in Shapiro’s hands. It sounds like he is playing guitar on a beat-up old pawn shop special that, remarkably, still sounds good in spite of itself. None of the theatricality in his vocal disappears, but he tempers it compared to earlier and later efforts. He invests an added sensitivity into his singing, as well, which helps highlight the lyrics.


 He slips horns into the songs as well. “Go To” benefits from their presence the most. The novelty of the trombone, arguably one of the rarest brass instruments popping up when horns are used, doesn’t strike a false note. It does not have a significant presence, however, but sets an early tone for the remainder of the track. The early portion of “LALA” mimics the sound of the song title in a pretty straightforward way, but Shapiro tinkers with the tempo. Dollops of wah-wah dropped into the song’s second half makes a difference.

 “Take-n-Make” does not bring St. Clair Simmons’ trombone into the fray until the second part of the song and its stuttering lines add welcome color to the song. The graceful guitar chords dropping in throughout the track are a great match for a slightly breathy Shapiro vocal. It is a little bit of a mood shift for the album – much more relaxed than its counterparts. The finale “Savor” continues in that vein, this time with Ben Gillece’s vibraphone elevating the cut, and few will find any fault with the vocal. It’s Amazing more than fulfills the promise of the Brian Shapiro Band’s debut album. The ten songs never rest for long in one style and the musicians are across the board convincing rather than excelling in one or two particular styles. Let us hope they continue to write and record for many years to come.

Clay Burton