Matthew Shipp at Cafe Oto, London

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Matthew Shipp/Paul Dunmall/John Edwards/Mark Sanders
Cafe Oto
February 12, 2010

At first glance the opening night of New York City-based pianist Matthew Shipp's three-day residency at north London's Cafe Oto promised a fire music spectacular. Lined up to appear alongside him were three of the UK's leading improvisors in reedman Paul Dunmall, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Mark Sanders, all of whom are eminently comfortable at the burning pole of the improvised music compass.

A plethora of acclaimed recordings, of which his solo 4D (Thirsty Ear, 2010) is just the latest installment, confirms Shipp's place as one of the premier modern piano stylists. Unusually for someone with such a glittering track record as leader he has also held down long-term berths in David S. Ware's classic quartet, routinely hailed as the preeminent contemporary small group, and with the more esoteric groupings of esteemed AACM guru Roscoe Mitchell. At the same time the pianist also rejoices in spontaneously improvised settings where his distinctive approach forges structure even from unfamiliar components, and that was the ground populated this evening.

No strangers to the milieu or one another, his partners equated to much more than a pick-up band. This was a meeting of peers. Long recognized as one of the UK's most accomplished reedmen, Dunmall is now picking up regular accolades in the US as well as Europe. Bassist of choice for virtually every visiting improvisor, Edwards has few equals with his full tone and energetic approach. Though not nearly so ubiquitous on drums, Sanders' resume nonetheless includes Evan Parker, Ken Vandermark, Charles Gayle, Leo Smith and Alexander Hawkins, as well as left- field rock gigs with Jah Wobble.

Though Dunmall and Shipp were ranged at the two extremes of stage, silhouetted against Café Oto's habitual minimalist stage lighting, they were on exactly the same wavelength musically. Shipp's tender lyrical shoots at the start of the first set quickly gained choppy rhythmic nourishment from Edwards and Sanders, prompting the reedman to join with measured staccato phrases. Before long all four were flying in a smoldering free jazz firestorm germinated seamlessly from their initial musings. Such cohesive communal episodes were commonplace over their two sets, totaling some 80 minutes, though opportunities nonetheless organically emerged from the fluent give and take to explore almost all the possibilities inherent within the foursome.

By way of counterbalance to his sometimes controversial statements reported in the press, on the bandstand Shipp proved selfless in his participation, judging what worked for the group, pitching himself sometimes as lead voice and at others in a supportive role. Calling on his years with Ware, the pianist knew just how to fuel the group furnace. His crashing repetitions and pealing fortissimo clusters propelled the band ever upwards. Once the ecstatic climaxes crested and the energy dissipated, Shipp's streaming crystalline runs over emphatic comping heightened the connections to another jazz tradition, some of the patterns even hinting at various Shipp compositions.

There was great synergy between Shipp and Edwards, testament to their shared fondness for rhythmic declamation, and revelatory instances abounded, as when the American's cat on a hot tin roof treble register prancing accelerated to match pace in response to Edward's rapid sawing. Later hammered two-handed piano crescendos punctuated the bassist's high cello like arco to winning effect. Then in one of the most striking examples of their interplay, the pianist adroitly meshed his rhythmic patterning with Edwards' pizzicato in a startling series of locomotive eighth notes, presently subjected to inevitable quick fire variation and dissonance by Shipp.

It was not difficult to hear why the bassman is in such demand. His ensemble play was hugely imaginative and responsive while his solos effortlessly maintained impetus. In one feature, quavering scrapes evoking creaking doors were interspersed with explosive bursts of percussive banging and grinding. An eruption of shrill squeaks, taps, and rasps drew a matching rejoinder from Sanders, signaling the transition back into group territory. Here Edwards also manifested his worth, helping to shape the flow, redirecting energies with ripe melodic constructions or fierce invigorating bowing.

Related Video


More Articles

Read Vossajazz 2017 Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights Live Reviews Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read Tallinn Music Week 2017 Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read Miles From India at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Miles From India at SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2016
by John Kelman
Published: July 3, 2016
Read "T.S. Monk Sextet at Revolution Hall" Live Reviews T.S. Monk Sextet at Revolution Hall
by Tom Borden and Eric Gibbons
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2016
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "13th Annual Uppsala International Guitar Festival" Live Reviews 13th Annual Uppsala International Guitar Festival
by John Ephland
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Miles Electric Band at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Miles Electric Band at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: June 26, 2016
Read "Ian Shaw With The Phil Ware Trio at The Workmans Club" Live Reviews Ian Shaw With The Phil Ware Trio at The Workmans Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 28, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!