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Your Shipp Has Come In

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These two guest appearances demonstrate that pianist Matthew Shipp has become an elder statesman in the jazz world. How that happened can be boiled down to two simple elements. One: he has created a unique sound and language for improvised music and two: Shipp has become a doyen of cutting edge music making and opinion.

Perhaps all of this could be foretold from his early apprenticeship in David S. Ware and Roscoe Mitchell's bands, and his collaborations with the likes of William Parker, Joe Morris, and Mat Maneri. He has also explored classical music, hip-hop, and electronica as the artistic director for the label Thirsty Ear Recording. Recently, besides his solo and trio work, his creative energies have paired agreeably with saxophonist Ivo Perelman and his various ensembles.

These two new recordings emphasize not only the pianist's now distinctive sound, but more importantly how it feeds other musicians, elevating their music.

The Core Trio
The Core Trio featuring Matthew Shipp
Freebass Productions
2014

The Houston-based Core Trio of saxophonist Seth Paynter, drummer Joe Hertenstein and bassist/leader Thomas Helton have released two prior discs, both collaboration projects from 2013, one improvised disc with pianist Robert Boston and a second Discontent (FreeBass Productions) with The Torture Chamber Trio, a clarinet chamber ensemble.

With Shipp in the studio, the untitled disc-length improvisation unfolds and blossoms with nary a lag or disagreeable moment. Shaped by the pianist's tendency to work in blocks and clusters of chords, the energy of this piece vacillates between dense passages and butterfly-light remarks. Does Shipp lead here, or merely respond? The answer is yes and yes. He can nudge Paynter's saxophone into dolefulness or ignite sheets of high octane sound. The response of The Core Trio is quite perceptive. Hertenstein's drums, which can be heard on the recording Future Drone (Jazzwerkstatt, 2012) with Jon Irabagon and HNH (Clean Feed, 2010) with Pascal Niggenkemper and Thomas Heberer, volley between minimal accents and a wavy bebop beat.

The order/disorder is the invention of leader and bassist Thomas Helton. Sounding much like William Parker (perhaps the highest compliment available), his bass is an endless source of energy. His playing is the fuel for this glorious session, supercharging his trio and their guest, Mr. Shipp.

Jeff Cosgrove/Matthew Shipp/William Parker
Alternating Current
Self Produced
2014

This classic piano trio setting of piano/bass/drums eschews tradition except for that which has been developed by Matthew Shipp. That said, Alternating Current, recorded under the leadership of drummer Jeff Cosgrove, fits nicely into the pianist's trio discography, and Cosgrove shows himself an equal with Shipp's regular drummers Whit Dickey and Gerald Cleaver.

Cosgrove is a colorist, not unlike his role model Paul Motian, whom his previous recording Motian Sickness—The Music of Paul Motian (Self Produced, 2012), was dedicated to.

This studio recording includes a 39-minute opener, "Bridges of Tomorrow," that features the drummer's tom-toms and the bowed bass of Parker. Shipp is free to fly with his proprietary chamber jazz sound. Where other pianists wouldn't dare mix modern classical and minimalist sound with a Cecil Taylor filter, Shipp dares the listener to pigeonhole his music. As always, Parker has a sympathetic ear, regulating the energy systems of the session.

Cosgrove saves Paul Motian's beguiling melody of "Victoria" for last. At barely six minutes in length, the simplest piece here forms the greatest impression. The players tip toe through, playing the piece straight. Shipp twinkling a nostalgic piano, Parker marshaling a human pulse, and Cosgrove speaking with a Motian accent.

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