Matthew Shipp Trio: Elastic Aspects (2012)
From the sublime introspection of Bill Evans' legendary trio to the unfettered expressionism of Cecil Taylor's various units, the acoustic piano trio has proven to be one of the jazz tradition's most versatile and enduring configurations. Underscored by percussion, the pairing of two chord-based instruments facilitates a wide range of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic freedom, enabling performers to shift between roles, alternating support and lead positions. Having established his reputation as one of today's leading pianists, Matthew Shipp's numerous efforts over the course of his nearly three decade career have increasingly focused attention on this venerable format.
Conceived as a suite spotlighting the clairvoyant interplay between Shipp and his esteemed sidemen bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey, Elastic Aspects is his second album featuring this particular lineup, following the critically acclaimed live recording, The Art Of The Improviser (Thirsty Ear, 2011). Brief vignettes highlight each member's creative virtuosity, veering from austere soliloquies and intimate duets to roiling, full-blown trio excursions. Shipp generously provides ample space for Bisio and Dickey to express themselves in a variety of settings, ranging from refined neo-classical ruminations to visceral bop-inflected explorations.
The suite opens with the regal fanfare of "Alternative Aspects," fueled by Bisio's singing arco and Dickey's ceremonial mallet work. The ruminative miniature, "Aspects," follows, with Shipp's spare, unaccompanied filigrees leading into the swinging trio number "Psychic Counterpart," setting the stage for the remainder of album's eclectic but aesthetically cohesive selections. Pirouetting between impressionistic musings and fervent testimonials, the trio covers a vast expanse of territory, demonstrating their improvisational prowess in diverse episodes that are as beautifully restrained as they are raw and soulful.
Though Bisio's rich, sinewy bowing and Dickey's vivid percussion are prominently featured throughoutwith the bassist's heroic glissandi on "Rainforest" a notable highpointthe bulk of the date invariably spotlights the leader's unique talents. This immaculate studio session unveils every facet of Shipp's dynamic range, from rapturous romantic contours ("Frame Focus") and bluesy baroque variations ("Raw Materials") to thunderous motifs ("Explosive Aspects") and prismatic tonalities ("Stage"). His tortuous cadences ebb and flow with an idiosyncratic logic, whether weaving minimalist refrains into hypnotic ostinatos or navigating labyrinthine detours with rhapsodic glee. Bolstered by the admirable contributions of two of his closest associates, Elastic Aspects is a compelling reminder of Shipp's singular mastery of the jazz idiom and a bold reinterpretation of the piano trio tradition.
Track Listing: Alternative Aspects; Aspects; Psychic Counterpart; Frame Focus; Flow Chart; Mute Voice; Explosive Aspects; Raw Materials; Rainforest; Stage; Dimension; Elastic Aspects; Elastic Eye.
Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Whit Dickey: drums.