Two players on Morph, Matthew Shipp and Nate Wooley, hardly need an introduction to those who venture into free jazz or experimental waters. But the leader, free jazz drummer Whit Dickey, is more of an enigma. Though prolific, his credits are more often in a supporting role. Dickey has been working with Shipp for nearly four decades in David S. Ware's quartet, Shipp's trio and his own projects. The New York native has recorded with Rob Brown, Eri Yamamoto, Daniel Carter, Chris Lightcap, Roy Campbell, Mat Maneri and many other top improvisers. He has appeared on ten Ivo Perelman recordings, several of which included Shipp. Dickey has led his own lightly recorded trio since the late 1990s. On this double-disc collection, the drummer offers two sets: Reckoning, a duet with Shipp, and Pacific Noir, a trio with Shipp and trumpeter Nate Wooley.
Shipp's ever-evolving lexicon for jazz piano finds an ideal match in Dickey's resourceful playing. Reckoning opens with a furiously paced "Blue Threads," an exercise in technique and crisp, thought-provoking, exchanges; those gestures are later echoed in "Steps" and the wide-open "Helix." Slower paced, quieter pieces such as the Disc 1 title track, the classically influenced "Thick" and the overall title track are marked by Shipp and Dickey's distinctive, regularly shifting dynamic suspense. The trio disc highlights the contrast between Shipp's frequently beefy playing and Wooley's sprinkling of notes. The two frequently alter accountability for the melody, pivoting around a gyrating system as they do on "Noir 1" and "Epiphany." In the mix are noise ("Pulse Morph"), quirky lyricism, ("Noir 3") and the netherworld combination of both on "Noir 4."
Throughout the two Morph discs, Dickey alternates between guiding and following Shipp's or Wooley's variations in motion. He uses the drum set to evoke a wide range of moods, the smallest nuances becoming substantial shifts in dynamics. Shipp, Wooley and Dickey play free jazz with refinement and confidence, adeptly using the setting to create an immersive experience that is spellbinding from start to finish.
CD 1: Reckoning - Blue Threads; Reckoning; Dice; Thick; Helix; Steps; Morph; Firmament.
CD2: Pacific Noir - Noir 1; Noir 2; Take the Wild Train; To Planet Earth; Epiphany; Pulse Morph; Space Trance; Noir 3; Noir 4.