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Matthew Shipp

By Published: November 11, 2003
MS: That's very interesting because we're all very different people, but yet we can play together, and easily play together. When I play with Mat Maneri and William Parker it's like, "Ahh". It feels right. Yet we're very, very different people. Very, very different musicians. I think William and I are very much intuitively in tune with each other. He's a generation before me, but for some reason we share this similar thing in this period of the music. We're both trying to take the music forward together, in a certain way together. Living in the 21st century, we both had a very religious background, a sense of how mysticism and religion translate into the language of free jazz, and there's a certain worldview with the avant-garde that comes out of a certain type of mysticism. Sun Ra had it. Coltrane had it. But both of them in different ways. I think William and I share in the understanding of that. But we also understand that living in the times that we do, we can't be Sun Ra or Coltrane. We have to be some fresh phenomena that's relevant to the world today. Mat Maneri also comes out of that very specific nexus of what the jazz avant-garde was in the ‘60s. He and I have a real understanding, or a real feel together, of how in an expanded harmonic way, and an expanded intervalic way, taking aspects from atonal music or early 20th century classical music and really expanding that into how that would organically work in a jazz vocabulary. I think Mat and I can breathe that way together.

AAJ: The three of you are in the String Trio. What does the String Trio do for you musically that a traditional piano trio or quartet wouldn't?

MS: It gives me a base to try to pretend to be a classical musician, because I'm dealing with two string instruments, so I can kind of give off the veneer or the buzz of a modern chamber group, but yet the essence of what we're exploring is very heavily jazz.

AAJ: Recent CD releases have demonstrated a movement towards incorporating strings into avant-garde jazz music. What is it in the air, as you say, that accounts for the recent movement of free jazz players to incorporate strings into their music?

MS: I think in this period a lot of musicians, even if they would claim not to be, are into aurally assaulting people, and there have been so many negatives thrown at avant-garde jazz, especially in the power setting. At one level, that's the attractiveness and the energy and the whole thrust of the music, that it can be an assault at times on people, even though there's a lot of beauty there. But I think there's a movement to temper the qualities that are traditionally thought of in the avant-garde with the sensibility that the strings bring, which is a very sweet, tender sensibility.

AAJ: Are there people you would like to work with, inside jazz or outside?

MS: More outside jazz. We're doing a project with Philip Jeck, a turntablist. There's another turntablist, Christian Marclay. I don't know him, I've never talked with him, but I'm kind of really into turntablists these days. My major goal is to play jazz, but it's very scary playing jazz music, there are not many opportunities out here, and once you really look at the essence of that, then you're really forced to take things into your own hands to create an opening for yourself. At the end of the day, what you're aiming for is to be able to go somewhere, sit down, do a concert, be yourself, and that's groovy. That's what all of that is for.

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