Matthew Shipp: 4D (2010)
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Since his emergence at the start of the 1990s, pianist Matthew Shipp seems to have fostered an infinite number of options available to him. From his free jazz alliances to his electronic beat explorations (also taking into account memberships in the groups of David S. Ware and Roscoe Mitchell), Shipp seems to like to mix it up. But periodically he releases a solo CD that functions as breathing space for him.
His last solo outing was One (Thirsty Ear, 2006), a strong set of originals, and before that Songs (2002), comprised of jazz, popular and gospel standards. For 4D, Shipp presents a set that devotes its first half to his own compositions and its second to repertoire. His originals are typically dense and knotty and though they might sound as if they're improvised, they have an inner logic. Lines contrapuntally cross, sometimes colliding into each other, melodies emerge and recede. "Equilibrium," a distinctive piece he's recorded before, pivots on a recurring motif of four chiming chords. The lovely chords that permeate "Stairs" contrast wonderfully with the dense, almost brutal chordal stabs of the preceding "Dark Matter." "Blue Web In Space" contains passages that wouldn't sound out of place in a Duke Ellington piano recital alongside plenty that would.
Shipp's kaleidoscopic handling of standards is well-known. He stretches out melodies then seems to condense all thematic material into a rush of phrases. "What Is This Thing Called Love" has a remarkable left-hand contrapuntal line, the tres fey melodie francais of "Freres Jacques" is humorously recast as a pounding Hungarian peasant folk dance à la Bartók and the brief (less than a minute) "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" is as straightforward as it gets. More so than his previous solo releases, 4D is as complete an example of Shipp's solo pianism as one could want.
Track Listing: 4D; The Crack In The Piano's Egg; Equilibrium; Teleportation; Dark Matter; Stairs; Jazz Paradox; Blue Web In Space; What Is This Thing Called Love; Autumn Leaves; Sequence And Vibration; Frere Jacques; Prelude To A Kiss; What A Friend We Have In Jesus; Primal Hamonic; Greensleeves.
Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano.
Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde