Friday, April 15, 2011

Matthew Shipp - Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear, 2011)

Over his career on the jazz scene, Matthew Shipp has patiently developed a unique piano and improvisation style. Apprenticing with the likes of saxophonists David S. Ware and Roscoe Mitchell has allowed him to develop a style of performing that draws on the length and breadth of the piano and all of the opportunities enclosed within. This album is a two-CD set, the first disc captures Shipp performing live with Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, while the second disc is a solo recital. The trio music is continuously interactive and exciting, leading off with "The New Fact," where trio led by Shipp's fast deep piano plumbs oceanic depths of music, then develops into rapid trio interplay weaving into patiently probing lengthy bass solo. "3 in 1" absorbs Bisio's bass solo for ominous dark themed tone, developing thoughtful elegiac music. Shipp's repetitive riff is hypnotic and leads to a drum solo filled with impressive rhythms. "Circular Temple" features probing piano and bowed bass with deep piano and light percussion shift to plucked bass with light piano. The dynamism of the piece is what makes it so fascinating, moving to a section of free trio action with the group deep and locked in. Duke Ellignton's "Take the A Train" is equally interesting, with Shipp playing and teasing the melody accented with percussive piano flurries. "Virgin Complex" ends the trio section with an excellent bowed bass feature with piano and percussion riding shotgun. Shipp's solo style shows his vision of the piano in stark relief and it is a format that clearly appeals to him with recent recitals from Thirsty Ear and a double disc set from Moscow that didn't receive the attention it deserved. Highlights of this disc include "4d" with its subtle and sombre solo tone. I love how he rumbles the bass notes, and makes use of the entire piano. "Fly Me to the Moon" demonstrates Shipp's Unique oblique approach to standards, probing and skittering, with repetitive bass notes sounding ominous. "Wholetone" is faster, rumbling deep and dark, sounding rich like strong like gourmet chocolate then turning light and tentative. The power of the piece comes from the juxtaposition of heavy with light, much like the recent work of Ahmad Jamal. This was an excellent set that is highly recommended to anyone looking for the state of the art in jazz piano. Shipp talks a tough game but he always backs it up, and he is truly at the top of his game here. Art of the Improviser -

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