Shim's extraordinary sophomore outing maintains its razor-sharp focus from beginning to end. The young tenorman's compositions are ceaselessly inventive; his band is ferocious yet subtle. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, another Blue Note rising star, joins Shim on several of the tracks, pulling off a burning marimba solo on "Survival Tactics." Pianist Edward Simon, a fiend of a player, is responsible for some of the disc's most climactic moments. His effortless touch on the Fender Rhodes lends an irresistibly hip dimension to three of the cuts. Bassist Drew Gress and drummer Eric Harland push the soloists vigorously and make Shim's unconventional rhythmic notions glow with musicality.
Shim continues to display a fondness for the low register of his instrument, which pointedly distinguishes him from players such as Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, and Mark Turner. On the remarkably cliché-free ballad "Christel Gazing," he practically sounds like a baritone. But ever eager to endow his work with rich contrasts, Shim opts for the soprano on the whimsical yet complex "Dirty Bird" and the closing Betty Carter tribute "Eminence."
Both in his writing and his playing, Shim reveals traces of Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson. But like his fellow members of the New Directions clique, he updates the classic Blue Note ethos with a harmonic and rhythmic sensibility that is downright futuristic. ~ David R. Adler