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I was scribbling notes while driving and listening to Matthew Shipp’s latest. Nothing any neurotic American jazz fan hasn’t done. It was my first go round with his new quartet and just before I changed three lanes, so as not to miss my exit, I scribbled “early-Jarrett and late-Corea meet Miles and Gil Evans in a Texas death cage match.” Besides the deathrace 2000 I do everyday, the energy forces from this particular quartet always give me the feeling there is someone else in the room (or in my blindspot). From his last outing for Thirsty Ear called Pastoral Composure he has kept bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver, but switched trumpeters to Wadada Leo Smith. He has also ventured outside of the deconstruction of standards he started on DNA and fulfilled on Pastoral Composure.
Subsequant spins of New Orbit in quieter environs reveal Shipp’s concept to be meditative, in nature as he works and reworks the reoccurring title track four times within the ten track recording. His “Orbit” piece is taken up solo and as a soloing piece for all players. Shipp mines a melancholy he is by now famous for, while Parker revs an energized Arco-bow that comes at your ears in deep blues and greens. Smith’s take is Sketches Of Spain, Miles as covered by Don Cherry. His AACM years make him comfortable in a free setting, but his solos organize themselves nicely in an oxy-moronic conservatively free manner.
In between the themes are six tracks of beautifully composed pieces. Cleaver seems content reacting to the three leaders, accenting their statements. Just like Shipp’s earlier recording Critical Mass (1994), this effort has a strong spiritual nature. One based on mediation and reflection.
Track Listing: New Orbit; Paradox X; Orbit 2; Chi; Orbit 3; U Feature; Syntax; Maze Hint; Paradox Y; Orbit 4.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.