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Matthew Shipp & Mark Helias: The New Syntax

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Matthew Shipp & Mark Helias: The New Syntax
Pianist Matthew Shipp particularly favors the duo format. Among a discography of more than 300 entries are winning combinations with partners as varied as trumpeter Nate Wooley, violist Mat Maneri, and saxophonists Darius Jones, Rob Brown and Evan Parker. But he retains a special fondness for the bass/piano twosome, accounting for multiple meetings with longtime comrade William Parker and the current occupant of the bass chair in his trio, Michael Bisio. To that illustrious roster can also be added his first encounter with storied bassist Mark Helias on The New Syntax.

Helias first came to prominence with reedman Anthony Braxton in the early 1980s, begetting enduring associations with pianist Anthony Davis and drummer Ed Blackwell, as well as many others including saxophonist Dewey Redman and trumpeter Don Cherry. His deep authoritative tone, strong melodic sensibility and abundant physicality can be regularly heard in his trio Open Loose with saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey, and in the 40-year co-operative outfit BassDrumBone with drummer Gerry Hemingway and trombonist Ray Anderson.

Although a composer, Helias also thrives in the spur-of-the moment territory inhabited by Shipp. As his command of timbre, pacing and responsiveness makes clear, he speaks the same language. But as the title has it, the syntax may differ from the pianist's accustomed co-conspirators. Does he perhaps surround his notes with marginally more space than Bisio? Does he ease back on those insistent patterns so beloved by Parker? With a music this mercurial it is hard to be definitive, but the album has a different vibe to others of the same ilk, possibly indicative of Shipp feeling out a new situation too.

However, Shipp's familiar virtues remain on display. In constant flux, he forges a singular amalgam of rhythmic figures verging on riffs, snatches of melody, a resounding bottom end, romantic interludes and more. But the way he deploys them is perhaps more spacious, with consequent adjustments in timing and density. As the dazzling interplay proves, both men are prodigiously equipped to negotiate the differences and similarities. While Helias' lines intersect obliquely and sometimes slightly dissonantly with Shipp, he still readily settles into passages of trotting syncopation, such that the whole set teeters deliciously between jazz and abstraction.

Track Listing

Mystic Rubber Band; Psychic Ladder; Acoustic Electric; Bridge to Loka; We Sing the Body Jazz; The Mystic Garden; The New Syntax; Sonic Swing Particles; Song for You.

Personnel

Album information

Title: The New Syntax | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Rogue Art


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