Monday, March 26, 2018

Matthew Shipp - Zer0 (ESP-Disk, 2018)

Pianist Matthew Shipp's most recent solo album is an excellent distillation of his approach to the instrument as well as his conception of composition and improvisation. There is an album of eleven crisp, pointed selections and an added bonus of a disc containing the spoken word lecture that he gave at The Stone in New York City, which provides fascinating insight into the man behind the music, as does poet Steve Dalachinsky's stream of consciousness liner note essay. He opens with the title track, "Zero" which features sharp, stabbing notes and chords that create a latticework of sound, evolving to chime like sounds hanging in open space, before gradually re-filling the available volume of the music. This gives way to the haunted soundscape of "Abyss Before Zreo" with its cold and spectral crystalline notes and slow evocative movement, that builds to a sense of uneasy resolution. Deep charges of low end chords, juxtaposed against higher pitched notes power "Pole After Pole" with a depth and gravitational sensibility pulling the music in on itself, leading into "Piano Panels" which has a full and potent sound that ranges from percussive chords to fast runs covering the length of the piano. "Zero Skip and a Jump" has the pianist moving quickly around the keyboard deploying a lighter touch that is punctuated by abrupt stabbing notes the push the music forward. The longest track on the album is the exploratory "Zero Subtract From Jazz" which evolves episodically, with eddies of high pitched notes running into stronger currents of darker chords and crashing notes. The music is a very impressive piece of improvisation, incorporating powerful technique and nimble execution. The talk that Shipp gives at The Stone called "On Nothingness" is a wide ranging meditation on the nature of music and the way that it pertains to science, spirituality and economics and the expression of sound in the modern age. Shipp is a powerful thinker, and to hear him in this context, removed from the music, or even words on a page is a very thought provoking experience. This album is a diverse and complete package, with the music, spoken word and poetry all playing an integral part to demonstrating how Matthew Shipp remains one of the most vital artists on the creative music scene. Zer0 -

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