The Italian renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and scientist Michelangelo di Lodovico is often quoted, when referring to his 17-foot sculpted masterpiece David, "every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." The same thought comes to mind when two musical sculptors chip away at everything that doesn't sound euphonic to, well, you get the idea.
For some time now, the pair, bassist Michael Bisio
and pianist Matthew Shipp
, have collaborated in the new jazz world. They can be heard collaborating with saxophonist Ivo Perelman
and in Shipp's trios, first with drummer Whit Dickey
, and in its newest configuration with drummer Newman Taylor Baker. Their release The Conduct Of Jazz
(Thirsty Ear, 2015) made many a critic's "best of" list last year. They have recorded one previous duo, a pristine studio recording, Floating Ice
(Relative Pitch, 2012).
This live date, released as an LP (or download), from a 2015 International Jazz Day concert in Seattle begins with unvarnished blocks (often Shipp's chords) and the pair chip away and polish the music into the fine figure of of song. Opening with Shipp's "Regeneration" the pair begin a dance, a sort of preparatory dialogue with an elastic sense of time and location. The music bleeds into the Shipp signature piece "Gamma Ray," which mashes Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story
into the angular style of Thelonious Monk
. With the bass of Bisio, Shipp has found his chimeric twin, who shares much of the pianist's DNA, as the two often share the same musical thoughts here.
From the raw block of granite the pair also carve out Rogers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine" and the jazz classic "On Green Dolphin Street." Both melodies fashioned as rough hewn pieces. More like Alberto Giacometti, than Michelangelo. The 1972 pop hit for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, "Where Is The Love" acts as a Rosetta Stone for the pair, allowing the observer inside their process, before they venture into Shipp's "Psychic Counterpoint" and their very personal locution. Bisio plays with pulse and time here much like Shipp, threading the music with an ear for melody, when need be, and a density that feels, at times, impenetrable. What characterizes their collaborations and this recording in particular, is the internal logic and order that the pair shape out of a slab of sounds.