by Clifford Allen, Bagatelle
The music contained on the nine-part Cosmic Suite , from pianist Matthew Shipp, drummer Whit Dickey, bassist Joe Morris and reedman/
trumpeter Daniel Carter, is an example of the "untitleable" - work which renders attached words arbitrary.
There is a singularity to the proceedings here (hence a suite), mostly because the musicians have played together in various combinations before. Shipp's work has always been imbued by the fact that he doesn't sound like anybody else, and that has sometimes made his choice of partners difficult.
His solo performances are perfectly self-contained explorations of ringing minimalism and tightly orchestrated clusters, lush and steely all the same. In an ensemble, his compositional mind and personal unification are conspicuous, as if a solo piano recital was occurring in the midst of group music. Here, he's chosen companions as starkly individual as he, yet the conversations that arise are far from competitive rutting. Carter's work with Test (Sabir Mateen, reeds; Tom Bruno, drums; Matt Heyner, bass) was usually interesting, for he is a coy and artful lyricist, full of jubilant energy that foiled perfectly with post-Ayler blowing and subway heat.
Here, his soft tone and quizzical phrases are well-matched to the curlicues and materialist romance worked and thrown by Shipp's hands. Carter opens the set with muted trumpet, sinewy and filling the spaces between the pianist's chords; a piano-roll statement later his cottony tenor emerges, Dickey's loose holding pattern crocheting underneath. Dickey's individualist percussion work, particularly his approach to the cymbals, is oft unheralded, which is too bad. He favors a buildup of subtle mass that's propulsive while being almost imperceptible. On the second improvisation, he and Morris shade around a piano-clarinet duo that's equal parts classical forge and plodding ghetto folk music.
Within the rhythm section's taut accents and relaxed lope, Dickey's airy use of cymbals provides webbing and metric wings to dusky spirals and resonant girth. Though the disc's title might seem nearly tossed-off, the sonic interleavings presented here resonate beyond a bandstand-bred familiarity. Cosmic Suite is excellent group music from four highly individual players/composers.
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