Matthew Shipp: Shipp Shifts

Chris Rich By

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"One of my basic ideas about free music is there is none; there is freedom of choice and the ability to be in the moment, Matthew is a monster at both, his ability to lead should be seen as the iconic model. A bandleader with such complete mastery who absolutely embraces the contributions of others is a rare human. Because of these qualities the music becomes all we are and more. Even the audience becomes an integral part of the process. One of the greatest compliments I hear at concerts goes something like this : 'I didn't think I even liked this music until I heard you guys!'

"A very wise friend of mine often says: 'Don't postpone the joy !' The Matthew Shipp Trio never does."

Whit Dickey practices a kind of stewardship in his relationship to music and the community it belongs to. His full range of capabilities can be heard on Transonic (AUM Fidelity, 1998), a trio with saxophonist Rob Brown and bassist Chris Lightcap.

His participation in the trio is more subtle as he is very keenly attuned to the agreed aesthetics of the trio sound. There is a sumptuous use of well-flowed tom timbres to extract tones faithful to the counterpart meeting of the piano hammer on its string. It makes for a nice weaving around whether the piano is a bunch of tiny tuned drums or a drum is a simple piano.

"The most important thing about Matt's music is the sound he projects out of his instrument," says Dickey. "What do I mean by sound? It's the organic unity of melody harmony and rhythm that is generated from the minute Matt touches the piano. This is what one hears in all great pianists, and it is particularly evident during solo moments. Matt's music has tremendous power even in the most delicate minimal phrasing. There are all sorts of inner melodies and harmonies at work in his phrasing. A multidimensional approach capable of both swing, multidirectional linearity and his trademark style, whose shapes and structures delve beyond linear rhythm.

"As I said it's a music—like the leader he worked with for 16 years, David S. Ware—with tremendous power. and it relies on a drummer sensitive to the profound vibration it generates. I've learned over the years to instantly translate mantra-like vibration I hear into time and pulse integral to the music. Bassist Mike Bisio, who adds so much to Matt's sound, makes this all the easier.

"So out of this we have a our own unique and special kind of unity, wherein we feed off each other and the music takes on all different kinds of shapes, colors and directions like no other piano trio. It's a true joy!"

Remembrance By Discography A Matthew Shipp Guide to David S. Ware Recordings

2012 was David S. Ware's last year here. His first was 1949. You'd think he'd get a bit more, but no. Shipp provides his own summation of highlights from his work with Ware over the years with the following selection of recordings:

Flight of I (DIW, 1991) "David's first CD on DIW, it sets the template for all of his future work with quartet. 'Aquarian Sound' represents David and his tone at its melodic apotheosis. The deconstruction of standards started in earnest with a version of 'Yesterdays' and 'There Will Never Be Another You.' And the cut 'Infi-Rhythms' represents David at his most profound as a composer who can get the most out of little kernels of material. Marc Edwards is the drummer on this CD."

Third Ear Recitation (DIW, 1992) "Two versions of 'Autumn Leaves'—the first is Ware at his most aggressive. [Saxophonist]James Carter once said in a blindfold test in Downbeat when this cut was played, something to the effect, (this is a paraphrase): 'In autumn the leaves come off the tree but this brother is trying to knock the tree down.' The second version is a ballad and I must say there is a piano solo that I think is special. This is the first CD that I think I figured out a certain rhythmic effect you can get on Yamaha pianos and I exploit that to the nth degree on [saxophonist] Sonny Rollins' tune, 'East Broadway Rundown' and David's tune 'The Chase.' Also we do 'Angel Eyes,' which we kept in the book for years and I did it with my trio also. 'Mystic March' is one of David's greatest tunes. Whit Dickey is on drums on this CD."

Cryptology (Homestead, 1995) "David's first CD on Homestead records, which was an indie rock label, and this CD has all the energy and the vibe of that whole period. The energy is even more stunning when I remember how sick David was when we recorded it.

"He had a tremendous flu and I tried to talk him into going in a week later but he felt the band was pumped and ready so we went in. This is a time piece of that period when punk rock labels where recording free jazz.


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