Although their paths have crossed in other ensembles, this release is a follow-up to pianist Matthew Shipp and violist Mat Maneri's initial duet release, Gravitational Systems (Hat Hut, 2000). Here, the immensely talented improvisers perform a set that emphasizes their spontaneous instincts and deep understanding of each other's sense of direction, highlighted by a laser-like focus throughout this sparkling audio production.
The duo experiments atop a fundamental jazz base, along with chamber-like overtones. On "Conference #1" Shipp and Maneri execute stark contrasts and toggle courses between sensitive underpinnings and mild disturbances via adroit exchanges, and an ending that steers the listener toward an unresolved argument or something along those lines. No doubt, the musicians score high marks in the 'imagery' department. As other movements include nip and tuck discourses amid Maneri's shimmering staccato lines and Shipp's sonorous chord voicings and nimble right-hand soloing etudes that often encircle or deconstruct a given theme or current.
The artists delve into some rambunctious and excitable free-jazz regimens along with mutable cadences. And they occasionally counterbalance austerity with playful detours. Although "Conference #7" is a sanguine and introspective ballad-framed work, where Maneri's arcing and overlapping notes are accentuated by Shipp's intermittent block chords, rendered within a complex storyline, swarming with an impassioned outlook. But the plot shifts during "Conference #8," which is another semi-structured improv conveyed with fleeting statements and a fast and frisky impetus, heightened by the pianist's blazing single note runs.
Several passages feature swirling dialogues, edgy treatments and a bit of angst. Yet the musicians' near effortless advances and perceptive theme-building sprees may hide the fact that these works are largely improvised. However, when you expect master-craftsmen to perform an expert job or service, the outcomes usually meet or exceed expectations, substantiated throughout this provocative musical event.
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