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Matthew Shipp Trio: Root Of Things

Mark Corroto By

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A mathematical equation can chart and explain everything in life, from the arc of a thrown baseball to the dynamical systems of chaos. The scientific study of deterministic chaos is a bit of an oxymoron, in that the mathematicians suggest everything can be graphed and explained by calculations. The theory being, the deeper you delve into any system, the clearer and more uncomplicated it becomes.

The same can be said for the music of pianist Matthew Shipp. Like the music of Thelonious Monk before him, what once sounded complicated and indecipherable reveals itself through immersion into its depths.

He gives us a bit of a musical Rosetta stone by way of the trio recording Root Of Things with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey>. Perhaps, in this traditional triad setting, clarity is accomplished. Shipp has worked with Dickey as far back as 1990—Circular Temple (Infinite Zero, 1992) and Prism (Brinkman, 1993) and now with Bisio in this new trio. Their previous releases were a live recording, Art Of The improviser (Thirsty Ear, 2011) and studio session, Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear, 2012). The trio also collaborated with saxophonist Ivo Perelman's on his stellar disc The Edge (Leo Records, 2013).

The levitating nature of the opening track finds the piano gliding over the bucolic background painted by Dickey's streaming drums and cymbal flavors. The piece meanders, unoccupied by time constraints, in a meditative structure. Shipp's notes are cast in patterns, unrecognizable at first, but then they seamlessly find an order. Same goes for "Jazz It," where Dickey and Bisio lay down a conventional groove for the pianist to expand on the jazz tradition of Monk, Cecil Taylor, and Ran Blake.

Shipp's compositions find a sympathetic treatment with this trio. There is less push and more cooperation here than say, in duo or even in a solo setting. With a piece like "Pulse Code," that opens with Dickey's drum parade, the music maintains a soto voce. Shipp and Bisio enter three minutes into this four minute song, spinning notes that threaten entropy, but never end in disorder. Same for the disc's finale, "Solid Circut," which opens with a piano solo, a left-hand/right-hand tug-of-warring of notes. The tussle expands into trio, effortlessly enunciating Shipp's phraseology, making his locutions neither chaotic nor uncertain.

Track Listing: Root Of Things; Jazz It; Code J; Path; Pulse Code; Solid Circut.

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Whit Dickey: drums.

Title: Root Of Things | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Relative Pitch Records

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