Friday, June 03, 2022

Matthew Shipp and Chad Fowler - Old Stories (Mahakala Music, 2022)

Pianist Matthew Shipp and saxophonist Chad Fowler, playing stritch and saxello here, make for a formidable team on this duet recording. Unafraid to go to the extremes on their instruments, these unnamed, spontaneously improvised instrumentals consistently surprise the listener with their depth of feeling and the stark beauty that is achieved. Fowler has a raw and unvarnished tone to his saxophone playing, one that is very expressive and can leap quickly from ruminative abstraction to scouring high register blowing. There a many gradations to his playing and he deploys them well, responding to Shipp's prompting or pulling the music down an unexplored path on his own. Shipp's piano is deep and rich, playing on a tightrope in this duet situation, but he never falters, moving through sections of downward facing bass chords that provide architectural support for their music, then providing large clusters of piano notes and chords to deeply engage Fowler's saxophone playing. The clashes and contrasts of their approaches and musical color schemes keep the music continuously exciting and propel it forward. On their improvisations they break the music down and then reconstruct it, challenging themselves and the listener, while never sounding dry or clinical. Shipp is quoted in the liner notes saying that he thinks totally improvising is a form of composition in its own right. He may well be onto something considering the success of this session where these two musicians hit the studio having said barely a word to one another, allowing the music to speak for itself, which it did very well. Old Stories -

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