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Pianist Matthew Shipp continues his impressive recorded legacy, which includes frequent duets with like-minded modern jazz musicians. Here, Shipp teams with the distinguished improvising artist and proponent of microtonal-based structures, violinist Mat Maneri. Staunch advocates and admirers of these two prolific musicians should be more than satisfied with the engaging and often intense musings to be heard on Gravitational Systems.
With this release the two musicians shoot for the stars while exhibiting boundless enthusiasm along with an acute awareness of their respective musical personnae, whether performing as an improvising chamber duo on "Elasticity" or pursuing motifs that seemingly extract their innate chemistries from within. Shipp's arrangement of the traditional "Greensleaves" combines a loosely based classical approach with a straightforward jazz stylization featuring the pianist's swirling and at times percussive attack along with Maneri's flowing and richly melodic lines. Yet the fun begins when the musicians skillfully integrate adventurous and often furious improvisation without losing focus or abandoning the main theme.
Here and throughout, Maneri rips blazing lines via his now familiar angular and somewhat sinewy style of execution as Shipp often provides the throttling undercurrent with jolting arpeggios and clustering chord progressions. In fact, Maneri has never sounded better as he stretches his wares above and beyond some of his more familiar turf while displaying qualities some would only expect from a classically trained virtuoso who also possesses acute and finely honed jazz chops.
The musicians integrate jagged statements in heated fashion while concurrently maintaining precision and balance via cunning improv and swift unison choruses of the engagingly melodic theme on "Knots." On "Two Elements," Maneri runs rampant while plucking his violin strings and scaling multiple registers with grace and passion while Shipp lays down a lively yet somewhat abstract R&B motif as the pianist inadvertently conjures up improbable notions of a piano summit between Professor Longhair and Cecil Taylor. "Forcefield" features sonorous passages brimming with interweaving lines of an almost circular nature while Shipp's exquisitely gorgeous solo piano performance of John Coltrane's classic, "Naima," closes out this fine exhibition in ornate fashion.
Gravitational Systems brings to light the irresistible tendencies and similar jazz vernaculars of two modern day jazz pioneers who jointly display a great deal of synergy, depth and heart. There may be a few surprises in store even for those who are quite familiar with the respective artists' past accomplishments and recorded legacy. In summary, Gravitational Systems is a noteworthy edition to this flourishing genre some of us refer to as The New Jazz.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.