Matthew Shipp


The Next Roundup
Step Tempest
by Richard B. Kamins

One of the joys of listening to pianist/composer Matthew Shipp is hearing how he incorporates the history of modern black music into the various ensembles he leads.


His latest CD, "Root of Things" (Relative Pitch Records), features his Trio composed of the agile and highly musical bassist Michael Bisio plus the demonstrative, forceful and rhythmical drummer Whit Dickey. This ensemble has logged many miles together, they listen intently to each other, and waste little time getting to the heart of the pianist's music.

One of the joys of listening to pianist/composer Matthew Shipp is hearing how he incorporates the history of modern black music into the various ensembles he leads. His latest CD, "Root of Things" (Relative Pitch Records), features his Trio composed of the agile and highly musical bassist Michael Bisio plus the demonstrative, forceful and rhythmical drummer Whit Dickey. This ensemble has logged many miles together, they listen intently to each other, and waste little time getting to the heart of the pianist's music.

The title track opens the program in a contemplative mode with Shipp stating the melody and Bisio offering counterpoint as well as harmony. Dickey stays away from a steady beat concentrating on interacting with both partners. "Jazz It" is notable for the "walking" bass lines, the boppish shuffle of the drums and the tolling piano chords. As the piece unfolds, one can hear Dickey reacting to Shipp's left hand, the pianist's rolling lines moving in and out of the active rhythms and how the music changes direction after the bass solo, getting a bit more frisky for several minutes (Shipp's abstract piano lines roil instead of roll) and going back to a variation on the opening.

The sound quality on this recording helps each instrument stand out - on the ballad "Code J", each note that the pianist and bassist play is clear while Dickey's crisp cymbal work stands out. Bisio's bowed bass opening of "Path" is engaging and engrossing, lasting over 5 minutes (with nary a dull moment) and leading into another ballad piece, led by Shipp's seemingly circular piano phrases. The following track, "Pulse Code", is Dickey's spotlight, his forceful drumming leading to a short, "free", interaction for the Trio.

The program comes to a close with "Solid Circut" (sic); the piece opens with a piano solo that contains overtones of Bach and Beethoven with a dollop of blues - when the rhythm section enters, the music changes direction, displaying flavors of "Money Jungle" (Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus's 1963 recording), especially in the way the pianist challenges the bassist and drummer to explore the material without losing the ultimate direction of the piece.

The Matthew Shipp Trio creates "edge-of-your-seat" music, pieces that make you pay attention each time you listen. And, each time you listen, one can hear how well the musicians interact, how this music never falls into cliche or seems stale, how it "swings" in its own way and flows unlike most other contemporary music. "Root Of Things" may be the best Shipp Trio recording and should make one want to see them live where this music really shines.

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. . . available at Relative Pitch Records

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