Matthew Shipp has managed his way through the 2020-2021 pandemic nicely, thanks in part to a substantial cache of excellent material. Free-jazz drummer Whit Dickey has been working with Shipp for decades, beginning with David S. Ware's quartet. Since 2012 Shipp and Dickey have worked frequently with Brazilian saxophonist Ivo Perelman. Dickey has been part of Shipp's trio and, in 2020, the pair teamed for a duo/trio release, Morph (ESP Disk). The duo debut was half of a double-disk set that featured Nate Wooley in the trio formation. Reels is the exploratory successor to that album.
The album opens with "Lattice," a mesmerizing composition with the feel of Satie's "furniture music," meeting idiosyncratic rhythm. Taken with the closing piece, "Icing," the two serve as bookends for some agitated improvisations. The daggers come out with "Cosmic Train" and "Hold Tight," angular studies which see Shipp and Dickey putting fine points on their synergistic passages. Moods vary, as evidenced by the obsidian "Moon Garden" and "Fire Dance," where Shipp and Dickey send notes flying like musical shrapnel. Throughout "Vector," "Silent Ice," and the title track, Shipp and Dickey alternate between intricate and dense; free improvisation and classical influences.
Shipp and Dickey embody the gray area where free jazz, avant-garde, and lyricism meet. These ten intriguing pieces push the scope of resonance and language for a piano-drum formation that occupies that undefinable space. The duo invites the listener to a momentary, alternate universe with the backdrop of powerful performances, fractured rhythms, melodies, and gripping concepts.
Lattice; Cosmic Train; Hold Tight; Moon Garden; Fire Dance; Vector; Magma; Silent Ice; Reels; Icing.