The recipe for this album could be detailed as such: start with one inventive drummer, add two interconnected masters of wholly improvised music, throw a composition from Paul Motian
into the pot, and let it all stir itself.
Drummer Jeff Cosgrove
's fascination with the music of Motian isn't a secret. As the man behind Motian Sickness, a band dedicated to shining a spotlight on Motian-as-composer, he drew attention to the late drummer's written work on The Music Of Paul Motian: For The Love Of Sarah
(Self Produced, 2011). The two gentleman joining him on Alternating Current
bold-and-assured pianist Matthew Shipp
and penetrative bassist William Parker
had never played the music of Motian before this session. Together, they set out to explore his "Victoria," but that was the only planned aspect of this musical meeting. The other two tracksthe lengthy-and-jarring "Bridges Of Tomorrow" and the hauntingly curious "Alternating Current (For Andrew Cyrille)"were on-the-spot creations.
"Bridges Of Tomorrow," clocking in around thirty-nine minutes, presents the most challenging music on the album. A short tom motif from Cosgrove sets things in motion, but the music goes anywhere and everywhere after that. Shipp proves to be the aggressor on this one, pounding away with stabbing chords, threading cryptic phrases through thick tangles of sound, and continually working the vexing angle. Cosgrove picks up on Shipp's tactics, often mirroring his dicey declamations. Parker is the one who stands apart in this setting. At times, he seems reluctant to engage in musical fisticuffs, preferring to work in the background or the cracks in the pavement. Later on, he settles in, engaging in thorny dialogue and standing firmly on his own.
"Alternating Current (For Andrew Cyrille)" and "Victoria" occupy a different space. Both pieces are delivered in a more measured and contemplative manner. Shipp's playing is flat out brilliant on both, Cosgrove's cymbal-and-tom coloration adds volumes to the music, and Parker adds depth to "Victoria," with his bass serving as ballast. Extreme order never prevails on either one, but both benefit from attention to architectural design.
While this is Cosgrove's date, and it's often about the dialogue between two or three men, Shipp draws the lion's share of the focus. He remains one of the most anomalous and intriguing pianists on the scene. Few musicians are nearly free of influences and allegiances, but he's one of the few. Hearing him shift effortlessly from the role of hushed beauty-maker to that of pointillist painter and pugilistic pianist is something else.