Much could be written about pianist Matthew Shipp and saxophonist Rob Brown's respective legacies within progressive jazz and improvisational circles in the US and abroad. Hence, these narratives are well-documented spanning several decades. On this release, the duo aligns for the third time, following Sonic Explorations (Cadence, 1988) and Blink of an Eye (No More Records, 1997). After all these years, their collective creative sparks remain intact as they embark on a continuous construction project without blueprints via spontaneous trajectories and subtle melodies.
The duo counteracts, complements, and contrasts each other, whether its Brown's edgy attack, sweetened by Shipp's lush voicings and lots of give and take or when navigating through calming or turbulent waters. On "Then Now #6," Shipp's rolling riffs generate a horde of fluid intersections with Brown amid some cat and mouse type episodes and contrapuntal phrasings. Here, the saxophonist's fervent choruses dissect the rhythmic element along with linear outbreaks. But the duo also executes nimble encounters and easy-going storylines.
"Then Now #8" features Shipp's frenetic and swarming lines with a consortium of highs and lows. However, many subplots are devised with playful jolliness offset by conflicting intentions that are slightly ominous in nature. Moreover, Brown's broad scope also includes seething notes and upper register-based angst, resulting in a search and conquer mission, augmented by blustery frameworks towards the finale. Simply stated, the artists morph a free-form approach into a delightful union of like minds, sharing the same goals. As the music is etched with conversational tones and dialogues, steeped in emotive output that often touches the soul and what many would anticipate from these two masters.