Thursday, October 29, 2015

Matthew Shipp Trio - The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear, 2015)

Pianist Matthew Shipp is one of the leading lights of the modern jazz scene; he is capable of the farthest out free improvisation as well as the most beautiful melodic lyricism. Both of those aspects of his talent are superbly melded here in the company of longtime collaborators Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. “Instinctive Touch” opens the album with a very subtle piano, bass and cymbal shimmer gradually building into a more complex section where Baker plays in a beautifully restrained fashion and they all show a quiet mastery of their trade. There is some snappy heavy piano on “The Conduct of Jazz” which the trio develops into a dynamic hard swinging section, which is then balanced by taught quiet interplay. Choppy sections of piano ground the music and clear the way for Bisio to take a well earned and very impressive bass solo. “Primary Form” has very urgent piano from Matthew Shipp alerting everyone of the importance of the music. Baker takes a short drum solo and sets up a pattern for trade offs between strongly percussive low end chopping of piano against short burst of unaccompanied drums which creates a persistent and interesting conception. Shipp leads the trio from the low end of the piano at the end of the piece, like a strongman moving ominous slabs of noise. He takes the deep and repeated figure even further on “Blue Abyss” which finally reaches release in a section of jazzy trio improvisation. This will repeat throughout the song with episodes of insistent and powerful playing switching deftly into light and deft three way improvisation, developing something akin to a call and response structure. The concluding track “The Bridge Across” is nearly twice the length of any other on the album with a lot of complex high wire improvisational conversation taking place between the musicians. There is excellent bass and drum playing throughout this performance while Shipp develops a fine latticework of crisp piano playing. There is a sense of three disparate percussion instruments at play each moving in a fast and precise fashion. The music is wrapped up with a wonderful lengthy stretched out improvised section where everyone gets a chance to shine especially Michael Bisio, who is simply magnificent. This is an extraordinary trio that makes very profound and yet highly accessible music. Undoubtedly, this will be classified as “avant-garde” jazz and that may scare off some people, which is a true shame. The musicians are true craftsmen at the top of their game and deserve the chance to reach the largest audience possible. The Conduct of Jazz -

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