Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction


Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction


Sign in to view read count
Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction
The ESP-Disk label simultaneously has released two distinctly different leader dates from Matthew Shipp. Zero is an excellent solo piano album, and here, we have Shipp's namesake quartet on the ten-track Sonic Fiction. The shared deference and camaraderie in this free-spirited outing allows for an appreciation of even the slightest details and distinctions—elements that can easily be lost in such an open setting.

The quartet is made up of familiar Shipp colleagues but not previously heard in this specific grouping. Polish saxophonist and reed player Mat Walerian has the most recently established association with Shipp. The pair released Live at Okuden (ESP-Disk, 2015) under the duo name The Uppercut. The duo followed up with two more albums in the trio format with Hamid Drake and William Parker respectively. Bassist/composer Michael Bisio has been a member of Shipp's trio since 2009, first recording with that group on Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear, 2011). Bisio has released more than a dozen recordings as a leader and has composed for film as well. New York free jazz drummer Whit Dickey has a long and extensive history with Shipp, appearing on fourteen of the pianist's albums, and on two of his own leader dates.

Sonic Fiction's relatively compact pieces cover a lot of musical territories. "Blues Addition" opens with an appealingly melodic solo from Shipp. Bisio then bridges the piano with Walerian's languorous clarinet. Similarly paced and structured is "Cell in the Brain" though the melodies are more episodic; the abstraction more in the forefront. "The Station" features Walerian—again on clarinet—employing extended techniques on this solo piece. Shipp's gentle, but idiosyncratic "Easy Flow" is a solo track as well. On "The Problem of Jazz" Bisio takes an extended solo through the first half of the piece whereupon Walerian, on alto, bursts in with a fiery improvisation before handing it back to Bisio who resumes his solo for a satisfying wrap-up. "Lines of Energy," "3 by 4" and the title track are all-hands amalgams of bebop and free playing.

Shipp's own presence on Sonic Fiction is limited as his democratic approach to the quartet puts Walerian and Bisio out front on many of the tunes. Dickey, as always, is a propulsive force, even as he proceeds with understated shading and texture. As produced by this unit, the music is in line with the expectations that have come out of Walerian and Shipp's previous work. The reedist's playing is inventive, even at its most subtle, and an effective contrast to Shipp's edgier passages. Overall, the lexicon here is clearly one that has been developed and honed by Shipp over time and Sonic Fiction is as perplexing, interesting and spirited as any of Shipp's quartet work.

Track Listing

First Step; Blues Addition; The Station; Lines of Energy; Easy Flow; The Problem of Jazz; The Note; 3 by 4; Cell in the Brain; Sonic Fiction.


Matthew Shipp: piano; Mat Walerian: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet; Michael Bisio: bass; Whit Dickey: drums.

Album information

Title: Sonic Fiction | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ESP Disk

Next >



For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Mad Dream
Sued / Nandayapa / Bergmann / Saunders
8 Concepts of Tango
Hakon Skogstad
Bruno Raberg Tentet


The Seagull's Serenade
Dominik Schürmann
Heartland Radio
Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.