Matthew Shipp / Nate Wooley: What If?

Mark Corroto By

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Sixty years after Miles Davis recorded "So What" during his Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959) sessions, the duo of pianist Matthew Shipp and trumpeter Nate Wooley ask the question What If?, as in, "What if, in the 21st century, all music was free?"

Free as in free range, without prejudgement, unbiased and without partisanship. Those are lofty goals indeed, but this first-ever duo session between the two virtuosos aims for the stars. And there is liftoff on these twelve mostly compact compositions by Shipp. The pair have crossed paths in the past, having recorded together on two Ivo Perelman dates; Philosopher's Stone (Leo Records, 2017) and Strings 4 (Leo Records, 2019) with Mat Maneri.

In this duo setting we are treated to a sort of chess match between flesh-covered supercomputers, calculating every possible aural move. "Space Junk" begins with Shipp's repeated piano hail and then responses from Wooley. The sounds are stark, as if two orbiting spacecraft are signaling in preparation for docking. To complete this mooring, more information (notes) are passed (think dial-up modems) between the players to accomplish this union.

Wooley is a master of extended technique. A term we give to his new sounds, the guttural blasts, and raspy breaths. Maybe a better term would be voice, as in conversant voice. He supplies a stream of consciousness to Shipp's hammering chords on "Ktu" and participates in a sort of wordplay exchange heard on "The Angle." In reality, this music is the antithesis of artificial intelligence, with both players exhibiting the most human form of communication, empathetic listening.

Track Listing

What If?; New Light; Plug Vortex; Points of Fractions; Ktu; The Angle; Nova Jazz; Space Junk; The Ball; Cosmic Rumble; Circular Juice from the Matrix; Call in Space.


Matthew Shipp: piano; Nate Wooley: trumpet.

Album information

Title: What If? | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Rogue Art



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