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Matthew Shipp, Marc Ribot, Dorado Schmitt & Randy Weston

Matthew Shipp, Marc Ribot, Dorado Schmitt & Randy Weston
Martin Longley By

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The Matthew Shipp Trio
Dizzy's Club
November 3, 2014

It's not often that a hero of New York's alternative downtown improvising scene ventures uptown to play a mainline jazz club. It's even more of a rarity for a Dizzy's set to consist of a single long piece. In fact, it's a virtual certainty that such a thing has never occurred before. Pianist Matthew Shipp seemed to find himself an entirely new audience on this Monday evening, as few of the regular faces were in sight from the gigs he plays below 14th Street. The crowd didn't particularly seem to be random tourist drop-ins either, so maybe the promise of a Duke Ellington homage was the enticement, or perhaps folks thought it was high time they checked out this vaguely familiar Shipp character. Either way, the first set was filled to absolute capacity, and there was a significant queue in place for the second.

It turned out to be an inspired move, using the repertoire of Duke as a springboard for improvisation. Of course, all jazz involves improvisation, but the degree of free-flowing during this set was at a much higher ratio than the norm, particularly when inhabiting the realms of Ellington. Some folks might have harboured doubts about this foundation concept, but the evening's execution proved the idea to be perfectly sound. Shipp was joined for the long, deep voyage by bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker.

Melody and abstract suspension coincided, as "Satin Doll" became "Stain Doll," as prettified chiming opened out into clustered rolling. It was a marvellous experience to hear such a familiar melody, streaked and strained in possibly one of the lengthiest interpretations ever delivered. One band member would invariably keep up a reference to the starter theme at any one time, with the remaining pair unfettered and roaming at will. The core was usually supported. Shipp moved frequently between dancing rivulets of cocktailed melody, which he'd gradually lead further afield into a still-opalescent re-christening of extremity. The set became a suite of spontaneity, but rooted more than most of this trio's output would usually be, cruising logically from one composition's ghost to another. The transition was very gradual, and it would take time to recognise the trace elements. "In A Sentimental Mood" started to sound like some non-Duke Broadway standard, pecking at alien sparkles, into a roiling cloud chamber of faint scent-recall. Traditional lines were subject to fragmentation and dicing, yet still held onto their original romantic essence. Bisio was left alone to solo, coaxing out the vibrations of a single string, then scrabbling percussively across all four, stretching, pulling and twanging, then drawing his bow across them with a grave groan. Baker decided that he too would like to be left completely alone, so set about crafting a detailed patter with his slim, bulb-headed sticks, tripping lightly. Then, Shipp re-entered with slammed power-chord force, developing a denuded, autumnal "Summertime," in surely what was one of this tune's most melancholy interpretations, morbidly droning, heavily dispersed, and slipping profoundly into winter-time.

The Marc Ribot Trio
(le) Poisson Rouge
November 3, 2014

Guitarist Marc Ribot's trio were limbering up for an imminent European tour, and also celebrating the 79th birthday of bassman Henry Grimes. Their late-night set at this Bleecker Street den was almost certainly more hot-wired than their residency at the Village Vanguard, as evidenced by its companion live album on Pi Recordings. Ribot was immediately running off into a distorted run of rock-spillage soloing, the trio initiating a pitch of intensity that sprang into existence straight away. Frazzling guitar licks burst out incessantly, matched by the levitating rumble of Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor. An expected highlight was the exultant sway of Albert Ayler's "Spirits Rejoice," which sat at leisure in the midst of the set. At the end, a cake was whisked out for Grimes, and distributed amongst the healthily crammed crowd. We never thought that we'd ever hear Ribot lead a rendition of "Happy Birthday"! For their encore the trio bled out a soiled blues, which released a lot of the tension built up by the spiralling structures of nervy scrabbling accumulated during this notably smouldering performance. The trio's introspective commitment was almost too much to handle.

Dorado Schmitt
Birdland
November 5, 2014

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