Root of Things
is the third recording by pianist Matthew Shipp's working trio with bassist Michael Bisio
and drummer Whit Dickey
, following Elastic Aspects
(Thirsty Ear, 2012) and the group's live debut The Art Of The Improviser
(Thirsty Ear, 2011). Over the past three decades, Shipp has demonstrated the reach of his artistry in myriad ways, including genre-defying electro-acoustic experiments. In recent years however, Shipp has narrowed his focus, concentrating on acoustic efforts largely based in intimate solo, duo and trio settings.
Shipp's veteran sidemen are equally experienced; Dickey has been Shipp's primary drummer since the early 1990s, working with him in various small ensembles as well as the legendary David S. Ware
Quartet. Although Bisio is a comparatively recent associate of Dickey and Shipp, his spontaneous responsiveness and imaginative phrasing facilitates sophisticated three-way conversations that border on the telepathic.
The labyrinthine title track opens the album, unveiling a symmetrical series of parallel lines as the trio ardently extrapolates the tune's oblique melody. The aptly-titled "Jazz It" follows, featuring Shipp's blistering bop cadences spiraling into feverishly hypnotic mantras buoyed by Bisio and Dickey's roiling undercurrent. Unfolding gradually, the lyrical "Code J" provides subtle respite to the proceedings.
The second half of the record highlights each member's interpretive prowess in turn, beginning with "Path," which spotlights Bisio's sinewy bass harmonics and buzzing pedal tones. Giving the drummer his due, "Pulse Code" is dominated by Dickey's shimmering barrage of percussion. The bristling "Solid Circuit" concludes the program in suitably dramatic fashion, prefaced by Shipp's introductory soliloquy, a tortuous juxtaposition of neo-baroque counterpoint and bold melodic invention.
The sublime conversational interplay heard throughout Root of Things
confirms Bisio and Dickey as two of Shipp's most sympathetic collaborators. Emboldened by liberal arrangements, Shipp's sidemen modulate between accompanist and soloist duties, redefining and expanding the rhythm section's role in this venerable format, effectively reimagining the piano trio tradition in the process.