With each successive project, the prolific Matthew Shipp takes the art form to seemingly unstainable heights and then persists in pushing the bar further along. Shipp began his recording career with a trio project, Circular Temple (Quinton Records, 1992) featuring William Parker and Whit Dickey, two artists that have retained close professional ties to the pianist/composer. Shipp has recorded a dozen trio albums with seven personnel line ups. His thirteenth project in that format, The Unidentifiable, features bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker who appeared together on Shipp's The Conduct Of Jazz (Thirsty Ear, 2015) and the outstanding Signature (ESP-Disk, 2019).
Shipp is consistently brimming with new ideas, even where the style is familiar. There are strong Latin influences on "Regeneration" and hints of the same on "Blue Transport System," but each is inclined toward Shipp's singular eclecticism. The title track is a striking hard bop number featuring strong solos from Bisio and Baker. Baker gets two solo numbers with "Trance Frame" and the forty-second "Virgin Psych Space." On the latter, he delves into a myriad of sounds from a single tom. There are mood-shifting pieces such as "Phantom Journey" and "Dark Sea Negative Charge," both starting pensively then taking off into unorthodox territory. "The Dimension" and "Loop" are more challenging listening; jagged, with quirky melodic passages. The ten-plus minute "New Heaven and New Earth" is full of angular drama played out like an avant-garde suite.
As Shipp continues to build his uncommon lexicon for the format, The Unidentifiable openly draws on the archaeological building blocks of the genre. The enterprising improviser discards none of the heritage or theories he's absorbed but leans towards dissonant elucidations and wide-ranging expansions. The interactions with Bisio and Baker are as good as it gets in piano trios. The Unidentifiable is a rewarding experience and highly recommended.
Blue Transport System; Trance Frame; Phantom Journey; Dark Sea Negative Charge; The Dimension; Loop; The Unidentifiable; Virgin Psych Space; Virgin Psych Space; Regeneration; New Heaven and New Earth.