Joel Shapira © Andrea Canter

The guitar, and its distant kin, the piano, are self-contained orchestras. Few other instruments possess their range in dynamics and melodic potential. If you’re going to master either, it helps to be keenly aware of that. It also doesn’t hurt to have a universal sphere of interests.

I can’t think of too many guitar players, or people for that matter, whose passions cut as wide a swath as those of Minnesota’s own Joel Shapira. Musically, he’s an unmatched trove of diversity. Through the modern grapevine of social media I’ve learned that Joel is as well-versed in classical music as he is in jazz. He can also dig into classic rock, blues, folk and reference punk with the best of them.  And passing these traits on to others is also an obvious love.

In Essence, as it may suggest, is a distilled affair.  Joel stands alone and unfettered with his six-string soulmate. He has made some flawless choices of pieces from the jazz canon. Let’s be clear, these are not shopworn chestnuts. They are crafty arrangements and improvisations on masterpieces from a man not drawn to the mundane.

Google Joel and you will see a fair amount of acoustic tidbits, but he hasn’t recorded much that way in the past. “Essence” casts him in that light and watted up, too.