Thursday, March 30, 2017

Whit Dickey with Mat Maneri and Matthew Shipp - Vessel in Orbit (AUM Fidelity, 2017)

This is the first album in quite some time from drummer Whit Dickey, but it is worth the wait. He is joined by long time partners Mat Maneri on viola and Matthew Shipp on piano, and the music is thoughtful and focused, exploring structure and freedom in equal measure. "Spaceship 9" opens the album with urgent viola and stark piano amidst swirling percussion. The music is powerful, with Shipp's repetitive low end comping building tension, and the remaining instruments sounding cohesive and spacious. There is a dynamic springiness to the album that keeps the listeners attention riveted. A quieter approach is at play on "Space Walk" with the music floating freely between the instruments, creating a patient collective improvisation. Subtlety and patience are the key themes to this performance, while remaining lyrical with nothing being forced or rushed and a viola solo taking center stage. Shipp's rumbling piano sets the stage for "Dark Matter" and allows the other musicians to join on a fast and deeply felt improvisation. The music builds speed and culminates in a thrilling, barreling performance with the sound developing a nearly physical presence. "Galaxy 9" widens the sound stage, with brushed percussion, gentle viola and soft piano playing developing an ethereal sound that has seemingly endless possibilities. The environment of the music contains a brief interlude for probing piano and soft percussion, and it is one of Shipp's great talents that he can say so much with so few notes. The music coalesces again to become technically complex yet accessible, carving an independent streak through modern jazz philosophy. There is a nimble interplay between the trio on "Turbulence" which swirls faster and more strongly as the performance develops. The viola swoops and sways amidst the percussive piano and drumming to excellent effect. "To a Lost Comrade" has haunted and spare viola turning slowly amidst respectful piano and percussion. The music leaves a great deal of room for interpretation, and gradually gains potency as it develops, and using the available space to frame the music as it comes into being. Nimble interplay is at the center of "Space Strut" with the music gaining a manic energy that allows for a wide range of expression with punchy piano swooping viola and propulsive drumming into a driving collective improvisation. Finally, "Hyperspacial" develops slowly, with beats and tones that move suddenly and in an unexpected fashion. There is a massive edifice of music that is developed and then abruptly scaled back to a quieter sound. All three of these musicians has sent a lifetime committed to modern jazz, and they share a musical relationship going back decades. Dickey’s thoughtful compositions provide excellent raw material for the project and results in wide open and expressive music. Vessel In Orbit -

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