Pianist Matthew Shipp's String Trio reunites three familiar collaborators whose paths cross in multiple settings. Bassist William Parker and violist Mat Maneri complete a line-up unchanged since the triumvirate's debut By The Law Of Music (Hatology, 1997). In the twenty-plus years since that point, they have further cemented their standing in the jazz world as leading stylists on their instruments.
In this chamber setting they function as interlocking parts in a mysterious jigsaw which depicts an abstract realm beyond easy analysis. Although each of the six pieces is credited to Shipp, the incident-packed results could easily pass as improvisations, as they are full of dramatic gestures, oblique intersections and unpredictable rejoinders.
Parker's robust pizzicato and fleeting cyclical figures establish a deep foundation which helps ground the volatile interactions. By contrast, Maneri's keening astringency and microtonal swoops lend the discourse a cerebral air, while Shipp triangulates between the two, offsetting the asceticism but also avoiding settling into any pattern for too long. Each cut represents an ongoing recalibration in which different flavors and moods continually appear. Among the most striking is the final "Law of Sequence," where a hymn-like solemnity gives way to a hopeful vibe and an ultimately emphatic and uplifting conclusion.
As was also the case on their first outing, Shipp varies the flow by deconstructing the group into its constituent elements. On "Inner Speech" he displays his singular, bewitching amalgam of pounding motifs, fragrant lyricism and restless scuttling runs alone, in an ever-changing kaleidoscope. Then the pianist sits out "The Other Universe," where the strings intertwine in a thicket of arco stutters as both Parker and Maneri wield their bows, pitching resonant bottom end against sibilant whistle, in a dialogue punctuated by tinkling bells.
But it is together that the threesome proves at its most potent and communicative, without ever falling into rote response.
Central Flame; Symbolic Reality; Flesh and Bone; Inner Speech; The Other Universe; Law of Sequence.