Saturday, December 29, 2007

Matthew Shipp - Piano Vortex (Thirsty Ear, 2007)

Pianist and composer Matthew Shipp has led a fascinating dual career recently, performing in both electric and acoustic contexts, as a leader and as a sideman. On this occasion he is the leader of an acoustic trio, joined by Joe Morris on bass and Whit Dickey on drums. The music presented here shows the dualism as well, with an almost even split between freer more abstract improvisations, and material that focuses on melody and lyricism. On the freer side, "Piano Vortex" is slow developing and moody, a long probing improvisation that shifts like the tide. "The New Circumstance" has a bowed bass opening with spare, dark flavored piano that evolves into a repeating percussive figure. "Slips Through the Fingers" is a feature for crystalline solo piano. "Keyswing" and "Nooks and Corners" shows the band's more melodic side with a definite Thelonious Monk influence, sounding playful and providing short and concise performances. "Quivering With Speed" combines pounding squalls of low register piano with rippling runs on the upper register to great effect. Throughout the disc there is excellent interplay between the three musicians, and the disc's LP length makes sure that it never overstays its welcome. This is a very good album, and shows that Matthew Shipp remains at the forefront of modern jazz improvisation.

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