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Matthew Shipp: Piano Vortex

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Jarring melodies, lively rhythms, electro-jazz-funk, and spoken word fusions—these are the things Matthew Shipp fans have come to associate with the pianist's music. Piano Vortex reminds us that Shipp is a master of his instrument in any format and not just a wily experimentalist, an avant-garde agitator or boundary busting bombast. With Joe Morris (bass) and Whit Dickey (drums) at his side, Shipp explores the unmatched level of freedom the traditional jazz trio setting affords and sounds never better.

Morris continues his ever increasing roll as sideman-popular; having most recently developed a strong working relationship with Steve Lantner, another pianist in the Shipp vein. Not that the likes of William Parker could ever be replaced, but Morris does seem to be the bass man of choice for those who explore the out-there fringes of jazz and his renewed friendship with Shipp is refreshing. Whit Dickey, a former member of the David Ware Quartet alongside Shipp, also returns to form here.

The opening, title-cut—"Piano Vortex, is all together drum-less, focusing on the tightness of Morris and Shipp's interplay. "Keyswing does just that, a far cry from the effects-laden adventures of previous Blue Series releases, but not outside Shipp's expansive repertoire. Something about the chords Shipp plays with his right hand give this tune an original feel. They sound static, like white noise, almost distorted—all while his left hand toys with a wonderful little swing melody.

Morris grabs his bow for the intro to "The New Circumstance and digs in for a lengthy solo later. It's nice to hear Shipp lay low and let his sidemen shine for much of this song. And overall, the space given to each band member by the other is impressive. Piano Vortex may be the name, but at any point the listener can choose to latch on to something being played by the bass or drums and not feel threatened by the ever-present ivory keys.

"Sliding Through Space is serene as the title would suggest. But what begins as a peaceful wade through the cosmos grows panicked as the listener copes with being on a fated journey. "Nooks and Corners and "Quivering With Speed are frenzied, almost dizzying.

Piano Vortex is another great addition to Matthew Shipp's catalog and showcases Shipp at the top of the game, his mastery of the piano never sounding better than here in this acoustic trio session. With each new release Shipp reveals more of his genius, pairs himself with a growing cast of fellow geniuses, and continues to challenge us as listeners, jazz fans, and critics.

Track Listing: Piano Vortex; Keywswing; The New Circumstance; Nooks and Corners; Sliding Through Space; Quivering with Speed; Slips Through The Fingers; To Vitalize

Personnel: Matt Shipp: piano; Joe Morris: bass; Whit Dickey: drums.

Title: Piano Vortex | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

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