Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Matthew Shipp Trio - Signature (ESP-Disk, 2019)

This is a beautifully rendered trio album with pianist Matthew Shipp performing with Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. Their music covers a wide range of territory, hinting at the post bop and free areas of jazz while remaining true to their own personal approaches to music and improvisation. The album opens with "Signature," featuring patient spare piano, with subtle bass and brushes gliding in, developing nicely textured trio interplay which has a quiet intensity of its own, without needing to shout. The improvisation gradually becomes more complex but never obtuse, allowing space to breathe throughout the performance. There are darker storm clouds on "Flying Saucer" which give the music a heavier and more foreboding feeling, where skittish bass and percussion meet the piano in a frenetic amalgamation. Shipp's piano style is a wonderful combination of light and darkness, building to strong powerful chords and fast runs through the keyboard that drive the music forward. Everyone meets for an excellent collectively improvised section that has an elasticity that allows the music to move in whatever direction is necessary, while not being at risk of flying apart. The music moves excellently in terms of volume and tempo, making this track one of the highlights of the album. "Snap" is a solo percussion piece, one with an excellent narrative, accomplishing much in a short period of time. Newman Taylor Baker moves around the whole drum kit and keeps up a crisp rhythm while adding a wide range of accents to it, creating a brisk and fun solo section. There is a hint of mystery to "Speech of Form," with the form itself being open to interpretation by the musicians, abstract and angular, gradually flowing through eddies and formations that shift the current and flow of the sounds. This leads into "Zo #2" which has bright and bouncing piano notes, frolicking with bass and drums, giving the group a spirited and excited sound, building a fast but light momentum. The collective improvisation is fast and fleet with Shipp returning to the theme occasionally, and then quickly sprinting off in another direction as if playing a enthusiastic game of tag not only with the melody by with his musical partners, dashing to the conclusion of an excellent and compelling performance. The epic sixteen and a half minute "New Matrix" concludes the album, unfolding an episodic fashion, beginning with taut uptempo trio improvisation, with percussive piano accents, building faster and more complex with the trio tumbling relentlessly forward into hammering piano chords juxtaposed against fast flurries of notes. A little past the halfway point the piano and drums retreat in favor of an excellent bass solo which has a lot of depth and resonance, and gentle piano and brushed percussion return giving the music a ballad feeling. This section of the track is quite lush and beautiful, carrying them through to the conclusion of what is a highly successful concluding track and album as a whole. Anyone who thinks that Mathew Shipp's music is too avant-garde should really take this album under consideration. This is an excellent balance of freedom and accessibility and the playing from all three musicians is just to top notch. Signature -

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