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Matthew Shipp & Mat Walerian Duo / The Uppercut: Live At Okuden

Mark Corroto By

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Jane Austen was mistaken when she wrote "Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable." Passing away at the age of 41 in 1817, she would not have had the opportunity to hear either jazz, nor the music of Matthew Shipp and Mat Walerian.

The surprise here is twofold; first, the discovery of a new voice, Polish reedsman Mat Walerian and second, the opportunity to hear pianist Matthew Shipp in his most sympathetic supporting role. Shipp has played in the duo format before with horn players, notably with Roscoe Mitchell and Rob Brown, more recently with Ivo Perelman, John Butcher, and Darius Jones. Where past sessions were often defined by friction (a successful improvising strategy), this session is cloaked with a feeling of amity and warmth.

Recorded live in Torun, Poland in 2012, the audience maintains the quiet until the penultimate 16-minute piece "Black Rain." Until then, it's nearly impossible to sense their presence. Or maybe it is the audience that is the impetus for this collaboration. The concert opens with the woody bass clarinet of Walerian, who we are told is a mostly self-taught artist. His tone is more relaxed then say Eric Dolphy's, he seems unperturbed that his debut recording is with this modern master. Shipp is obliged to maintain a decorous approach, too. His signature thunderous left hand is held in reserve for much of the recording; he is content to oil a meditative saucepan, steering away from the sauté. The two alto saxophone pieces, "Free Bop Statement One" and "Free Bop Statement Two" carom and bounce with Shipp's spry, buoyant lines and Walerian giving chase. His saxophone recalls the breathy tone of Johnny Hodges. "Love And The Other Species" is a soulful semi-blues and "It's Sick Out There" ploughs a bit of delirium into the mix with its rush of emotion. The pianist plies his familiar exploratory hand to "Peace And Respect," that opens up into Walerian's meditation. The like-minded pair coauthor a genuine statement of just that peace and respect. Highly recommended.

Title: Live At Okuden | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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