Matthew Shipp: Magnetism(s)

John Sharpe By

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When originally issued back in 1999, pianist Matthew Shipp's Magnetism (Bleu Regard), uniting him with long standing soul mates bassist William Parker and saxophonist Rob Brown, stood as one of a series of fine dates by the pianist which included By The Law Of Music (Hat Art, 1997) and Strata (Hat Art, 1998). Like many of Shipp's albums of that period it comprises a sequence of short pieces which feature varying instrumentation. The Paris-based Rogue Art imprint has now reissued that studio session, pairing it with a live performance from The Stone by the same line up recorded 17 years later. Much has changed, but much also stays the same.

A unique stylist, even pre-Millennium, Shipp can be mistaken for no-one else. The 20 bite sized instalments, mostly falling between two and five minutes, act as aphorisms, rich and pithy. All the tracks are credited to the pianist, even though four are for either Brown or Parker alone. Of the remainder, two are for solo piano, one is a duet, and 13 by the full trio. And the trio does sound full. Parker alternates between percussive plucking and adventurous bow work, while on alto saxophone Brown invests almost every note with twisted overtones which evoke urban alienation at the border of pain and pleasure.

Among the highlights are "Magnetism III," taut with the tension between Parker's abrasive sawing and Brown's breathy shakuhachi-style flute, "Magnetism V" which combines Shipp on the piano strings and the bassist's wavering bowed whistle interwoven with Brown's fragile alto, and "Magnetism VII" which showcases the threesome's quicksilver interplay. Shipp shines throughout but especially on "Magnetism XI" where he lays down a tour de force of propulsive locomotion, and "Magnetism XVII" where minimalism meets Bud Powell in his flowing piano.

Fast forward to 2016 and Shipp remains a singular figure, spinning between persistent motifs, left hand depth charges and sudden sparkling sorties, while Parker's yowling arco is still a strength. Brown concentrates solely on alto saxophone here, and while the contours of his anguished lines leap and corkscrew as before, he ventures into split tones much more sparingly. The most significant distinction however is the switch to long form improvisation, with three cuts ranging between half an hour and six minutes, credited jointly to all three.

Peaks and troughs emerge spontaneously from the vibrant interchange of the lengthy "Vibration And Magnetism." Shipp's determined stomp increases the intensity, fuelling Brown's keening alto early on. Breaks open up for Parker's ringing pizzicato and later for rippling unaccompanied piano, but overall the emphasis falls predominantly on the trio. A strained lyricism surfaces at irregular intervals in both "Resonance Magnetism" and "Impact And Magnetism," with a passage of electrifying scraping from Parker on the former, while the latter seems almost jazzy at times.

Considered in the round, the earlier disc shades it for its focus and variety. Five stars for that, four for the concert recording. Let's split the difference.

Track Listing: CD1: Magnetism I; Magnetism II; Magnetism III; Magnetism IV; Magnetism V; Magnetism VI; Magnetism VII; Magnetism VIII; Magnetism IX; Magnetism X; Magnetism XI; Magnetism XII; Magnetism XIII; Magnetism XIV; Magnetism XV; Magnetism XVI; Magnetism XVII; Magnetism XVIII; Magnetism XIX; Magnetism XX; CD2: Vibration And Magnetism; Resonance Magnetism; Impact And Magnetism.

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Rob Brown: alto saxophone, flute (CD1); William Parker: double bass.

Title: Magnetism(s) | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Rogue Art


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