Thursday, January 31, 2013

Matthew Shipp - Greatest Hits (Thirsty Ear, 2013)

Pianist Matthew Shipp has been one of the most commanding jazz musicians of the past couple of decades, whether recording with the awe inspiring David S. Ware Quartet, or leading his own ensembles of every shape and size. This compilation tracks his work as a leader for the Thirsty Ear record label, in particular their Blue Series of recordings that stretched the boundaries of jazz and improvised music. For his albums so far on Thirsty Ear, he has shown an insatiable curiosity, recording in settings from solo piano to acoustic quartet to electro-acoustic juggernaut. What all of the music shares is a singular commitment to exploration.  “Gesture” opens this album with stark piano and stoic trumpet, placed wide open in space and time with ripe trumpet arcing over a fine foundation of piano, bass and drums. Excellent bass and processed drums usher in “Cohesion” with Shipp’s repetitive piano figure building tension before bursting forth in a downpour of notes. He is very dynamic here, shifting between stabbing chords and supple runs. The enhanced drumming also supports “New ID” with piano and bass working hard to carve out a space for themselves. Shipp’s percussive piano drives the music forward with thick, elastic bass showing the way. “Nu-Bop” was a call to arms in Shipp’s quest to modernize jazz and incorporate newer elements into his improvisations. The thick bass and syncopated drums build in a heavy fashion as electronically distorted saxophone weaves around like a distant dream. The drums drive even harder, sculpting solo space and leading to a powerful full group crescendo before ship guides it out solo. Matthew Shipp has had a remarkable run of music on this label (and many others) and hopefully it will continue far into the future. If you have not had the chance to sample his extraordinary music, this makes an excellent place to do so. Greatest Hits - amazon.com

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