Charlie Shoemake’s most recent album on the Chase Music Group label is immodestly titled “Vibes Master.” This is no idle boast. Catch him when he makes one of his sporadic journeys away from his idyllic headquarters in Cambria on California’s Central Coast, and you will definitely hear a player at the top of his craft.
Shoemake — who turns 66 on July 27 — sounded very much at home Tuesday night in the intimate, wood-paneled, acoustically pleasing space of Charlie O’s, tucked within a nondescript neighborhood in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. Without venturing a step outside of the acoustic jazz mainstream or indulging in thousands of notes per minute for their own sake, Shoemake still finds fresh, inexhaustibly melodic things to say in every tune. Every chorus is a master class on how to construct a cogent statement on the vibraphone; every solo has a beginning, middle and end — and he makes everything sound deceptively easy.
Though the menu contained some well-worn standards like “Lover Man,” “Everything Happens to Me” and a bossa nova treatment of “‘S Wonderful,” Shoemake also displayed a yen for more obscure, yet no less worthy material on which to work out. The second set contained a gem — a little-known Antonio Carlos Jobim tune buried in the middle of the latter’s “Wave” album, “Look to the Sky,” lovingly resurrected here — as well as a swinging treatment of the ancient rouser “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.”
Shoemake’s quartet — whose drummer (Paul Kreibich) and bassist (Luther Hughes) have been playing with him for some 15 years, and whose bop-grounded pianist John Campbell uses space effectively — swung hard coming out of the gate; they’re tight and they listen closely to each other. They will be playing again tonight at another location in the Southland, the Vic in Santa Monica.