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Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature

Karl Ackermann By

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In the period of 2017-2018, the leading avant-garde and free jazz pianist Matthew Shipp performed and recorded in a variety of small group settings. Often, he was paired with reed players such as Allen Lowe, Mat Walerian, Daniel Carter, Roscoe Mitchell and on an astounding dozen albums with Ivo Perelman. But it is in solo piano and trio settings that Shipp's matchless piano talents shine. In the mix of those two years were the excellent Piano Song (Thirsty Ear, 2017) and the solo project Zero (ESP-Disk, 2018). The trio that brought us Piano Song returns with its third album, Signature.

Newman Taylor Baker is one of the finest drummers in jazz and has worked in string bands, bluegrass, and other genres. He has teamed with Henry Threadgill, Billy Bang, Henry Grimes, Leroy Jenkins among other notable progressive artists. He joined this Shipp trio in 2015 on The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear Recordings, 2015). Bassist Michael Bisio has a well-established history with Shipp dating to Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear Recordings, 2011). An accomplished composer and improviser, Bisio has composed for film and theater and his music has been featured in an animated production.

The title track opens Signature in a paradisiacal place. Shipp's ruminative introduction, accompanied by Baker's light brushwork and Bisio's deep woody bass, gives way to "Deep to Deep," a bowed bass drone of under one minute. The pace picks up considerably on the more transcendental "Flying Saucer," a piece that—along with "Zo #2"—serves as a reminder of why Shipp is sometimes compared to Cecil Taylor. Two real treats on Signature are "Snap" and "New Z," both percussion solos from Taylor. The album closes with "The Matrix"—a sixteen-minute epic that moves in and out of stages that are alternately visceral and bucolic, and packed with appealing solos.

Signature comes roughly two years after Shipp moved on from his long, and multifaceted, relationship with Thirsty Ear Recordings. That move had triggered rumors that Shipp would stop recording, performing, or both and thankfully, none of the above were true. Shipp's career has played out in waves, from the David S. Ware era on and has hit new peaks without ever landing in the valley. Signature is one of his albums that attaches itself with greater adhesion on each listen.

Track Listing: Signature; Deep to Deep; Flying Saucer; Snap; The Way; Stage Ten; Speech of Form; Zo #2; New Z; This Matrix.

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Newman Taylor Baker: drums.

Title: Signature | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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