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Matthew Shipp: Codebreaker


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Matthew Shipp: Codebreaker
Pianist Matthew Shipp has a habit of putting out piano solo and piano trio CDs in quick succession. In 2020, it was the solo set Piano Equation (Tao Forms) and the trio outing The Unidentifiable (ESP Disk). In 2021 he offers up Village Mothership (Tao Forms), a trio offering, and the solo set—and the subject of this review—Codebreaker.

Shipp, at one point deep into a long career, threatened to fade off into retirement. That hasn't happened. In fact, he has remained prolific. As of fall of 2021, he seems to have settled into a half a dozen album releases (or thereabouts) per year. With Codebreaker he presents an introspective side of his artistry, coming (allegedly) out of a mix Bill Evans and Bud Powell influences. But Shipp is too idiosyncratically himself—here and on most everything he does—to offer up a listening experience to make you nod and say, "Ah yes, Evans, Powell, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra." Though the tapestry that makes up Shipp's artistry does contain, in interludes, elements of all these.

In fact, Codebreaker sounds like a continuation of Shipp's dive into subterranean pianism—hints of influences tinting a well-formed personalized style. Bill Evans sounds as if he's coming down from heaven; Cecil Tayor soars in from the other side of the galaxy; Bud Powell bounces in off the gritty streets, joyously; and Matthew Shipp—especially here on Codebreaker—seems to resonate out of a cavern that opens up out of Jules Verne's center of the Earth, notes and chords echoing off of gleaming stalactites and surrounding rock walls.

Always searching, delving into the unknown, Shipp's sound seems a parallel to that of Paul Bley, with a harder, more percussive and emphatic edge, the sounds of seismic movements that fall short of earthquakes.

Some of the titles do indeed have a Sun Ra-ish cosmic lean: "Letter From the Galaxy," "Raygun," "Stomp to the Galaxy." But the title of the set's closer, "The Tunnel," may be more descriptively accurate. A tunnel to a lost world full of ancient wonders, fantastic and over the edge, perhaps, of believability, but all the more compelling for it.

That is one take on Shipp's creation. Another is expressed in Mia Hansford's lovely and poetic surface-of-the-Earth liner note interpretations of each of the eleven compositions.

Track Listing

Codebreaker; Spiderweb; Disc; Code Swing; Letter From The Galaxy; Green Man; Raygun; Suspended; Mystic Motion; Stomp To the Galaxy; The Tunnel.


Matthew Shipp: piano.

Album information

Title: Codebreaker | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Tao Forms

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