Matthew Shipp is like an engineer from another dimension. In three decades of making music, he maintains an inquisitiveness for expanding new dialects and an aptitude for blending composition and exploration. Marking his sixtieth birthday, The Piano Equation reveals the pianist contemplating past experiments if only as a platform for the future; a foundation for yet another new conception. Seeing words like "equation," "vortex," or "cosmic" in Shipp's titles points to a theoretical approach that the composer's loyal audiences are accustomed to. But, as always, Shipp's artistic presentation, imaginative ideas, and technique are rarely a set-up for repeating history.
The Piano Equation captures fifteen solo originals, co-produced with Shipp's frequent colleague, drummer Whit Dickey. The compositions do not uniformly reflect whatever elevated analytics led to their development. The title track, "Piano in Hyperspace," and "Tone Pocket" feature becalming, sometimes pastoral melodies, not without the razor-sharp underscoring that jolts the ears. On "Swing Note From Deep Space" and "Clown Pulse" Shipp blends earlier jazz influences with free expression in highly-textured creations. At the most unconventional end of the spectrum, he gives us "Vortex Factor," "Radio Signals Equation" and "Cosmic Juice." Within each piece, Shipp builds near-impenetrable layers of sound, just allowing occasional streams of light to pass through.
Each track on The Piano Equation is an adventure in cryptic communication. There is tension and incendiary energy with an expansive and sophisticated architecture holding all the complexity together. In his solo projects, Shipp's large-scale improvisations lend a beefy but inviting quality to the music. It's been a long-time goal of Shipp to redefine jazz piano andat sixtyhe says that he still has "something to say." He says it here, in a language all his own.
Piano Equation; Swing Note From Deep Space; Piano In Hyperspace; Vortex Factor; Land Of The Secrets; Void Equation; Tone Pocket; Clown Pulse; Radio Signals Equation; Emission; Cosmic Juice.
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