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First off, let’s silence the cries of ‘heretic’ and ‘sell-out.’ Sure Matthew Shipp’s latest disc aligns itself with DJ and club culture, but this is no compromise to smooth-fusion. We all know Matthew Shipp walks different streets than most musicians. His music is, and has always been, about the exploration of free principles at the crossroads of classical and jazz music. His most challenging recordings can be found on the Hatology label and his most accessible on Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, where he acts as creative director.
Nu Bop finds Shipp trekking new avenues, those of a more urban culture. His transfer to this street-credible sound doesn’t suffer from fusion pains like, say Freddie Hubbard’s 1970’s pop records or Miles Davis’ covers of Michael Jackson. Shipp doesn’t get lost in the sound nor does his music suffer from repetitive beat syndrome. While employing Chris Flam’s programming and synthesizers, Shipp also adds drummer Guillermo Brown’s real-time beats and William Parker as his timekeeper. What you get is hard-hitting music with all the elements in place for out-reaching jazz.
The title track begins with a base-heavy beat before saxophonist Daniel Carter enters with a series of complex lines of thought. Carter’s flute on “X-Ray” is a thoughtful duet with Parker and “ZX-1” is a traditional Shipp statement. But this album is about popular culture, and the band returns to the music Herbie Hancock thought he was recording on his latest Future 2 Future. Shipp proves he can be funky, hip, and ultimately creative while playing the popular music of his times. He’s just as creative here as when he plays music from the fringes.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.