By NATE CHINEN , New York Times
Every aspect of music making sets off a calculation, in real time, for Matthew Shipp. “4D” (Thirsty Ear), due out on Tuesday, is his new solo piano release, described by its maker as an artistic culmination. (Mr. Shipp has also called it his last album, but he has said that before.)
With a track listing that puts “Prelude to a Kiss” alongside original themes like “Dark Matter” and “Equilibrium,” the album refutes hierarchy; every theme is subject to revision or recontextualization. (“Primal Harmonic,” Mr. Shipp’s oblique nod to Alice Coltrane, comes bracketed by stern readings of “Greensleeves” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”) The atmosphere is somber, thick, a little messy. But in the percussive nub and tangled undergrowth of his playing, and in his penchant for provocation, Mr. Shipp is finding success on his own terms.
AllAboutJazz / Rifftides by Doug Ramsey
Shipp's initial inspiration was Bud Powell, who to a great extent is the underpinning of his music. The unfettered approach of the formidable technician and free adventurer Cecil Taylor is a potent strain in Shipp's work, but no matter how far out he goes, Shipp's sense of chord and line movement puts him closer to Powell than Taylor ever was.
That is evident throughout the solo album 4D, nowhere more emphatically than in the roiling forward movement and occasional bebop phraseology of “Equilibrium," which also has hints of Thelonious Monk and Earl Hines. In its opening bars, “Teleportation" bows even lower in Powell's direction.
Throughout the album, Shipp glimpses other presences; John Coltrane in “Dark Matter" and “Stairs," Taylor in “Jazz Paradox," Ellington in “Prelude to a Kiss." But to dwell on evidence of his influences is to ignore Shipp's originality, which is bolstered by redoubtable technique. He sometimes holds his keyboard prowess in reserve, but when he unleashes it, as he does in a joyful “What is This Thing Called Love," it can be dazzling.
In addition to the two standards named above and his compositions (or spontaneous creations; it's difficult to be certain), Shipp applies his daring, ferocity and wit to “Autumn Leaves," “Greensleeves," “What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and “Frere Jacques." “Frere Jacques?" Yes. Shipp proves that it is possible to operate out there on the edge without losing sight of the fundamentals.
by Thom Jurek, allmusic
Jazz pianist, composer, and producer Matthew Shipp has been through many phases in his long career. Since he began his association with Thirsty Ear, he has curated its Blue Series. Through this endeavor, Shipp has not only stretched the definitions of jazz, but also exponentially advanced his own ideas about it conceptually and technically.
4D is divided roughly into halves: one is a series of original compositions; the other interpretations of standards and folk songs.
It sums up his musical sense, but more importantly, points to new horizons. The strident physicality of his early recordings has given way to a (somewhat more) nuanced touch and fluidity that relies heavily on counterpoint, expansive harmonics, and spaciousness. Dissonance still plays a necessary role in this work as it is heard in both aspects of the album, but it is heightened by a wonderfully complex lyricism that is now predominant.
The Monk-ish intro in “The Crack in the Piano’s Egg” offers a starting point for both harmonic investigation of theme, and a tonal pronouncement of rhythm and its relationship to his subtly expressed lyricism. He places large minor chords in the lower-middle register to push at the tune's time, contrasted by his quoting of Monk and Ellington with his right hand; then improvising with both.
The brief “Equilibrium” reveals classical notions of counterpoint and its relationship to the jazz tradition. “Teleportation” is an angular post-bop tune that nearly swings even in its labyrinthine dissonance and sophisticated technical facility.
In “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “Prelude to a Kiss,” Shipp allows the original melodies to fully inhabit his improvisations -- especially in the left hand -- even as his movement of the tunes' architectures expands their margins with an elegant --if dissonant -- harmonic extrapolation. “Frere Jacques” becomes equal parts Bartók and a musical form of French rondelet, with startlingly forceful lower-register improvisation employed as a bridge.
A mysterious improvisation called “Primal Harmonic” (touching on Bach and Art Tatum) introduces an angular, yet lovely “Greensleeves” to close out this marvelous program. On 4D, Shipp nods to history with depth perception and articulates his new direction gracefully.
"Matthew Shipp's new solo album may be his definitive artistic statement"
- Signal to Noise
"The pianist digs deep, often bringing a molten motion to his work -- it's thick with ideas. On the upcoming 4d,you can hear this deliberate approach unfold; every left hand depth charge and right hand squiggle justifies their existence."
-- Village Voice
"Excellent solo piano disc -- his solos have a distinct form and logic of their own"
-- The Examiner
"His best solo effort yet, 4D. The pieces bristle with powerful dynamic shifts and brilliant uses of space and silence."
- Chicago Reader
Mark Stryker, Freep.com
(Detroit Free Press)
The always searching vanguard pianist Matthew Shipp goes it alone on "4D" (Thirsty Ear, in stores Tuesday), offering an inventive and remarkably concentrated set of solo performances. Shipp has always connected the dots between the avant-garde and the maverick spirit of Thelonious Monk and others, but there is a special majesty and clarity in the synthesis here.
Working through a program of epigrammatic originals -- along with a few idiosyncratic readings of standards like "Autumn Leaves" and "Prelude to a Kiss" -- Shipp spins out discursive improvisations, balancing skittering and jabbing rhythms with stream-of-consciousness melody. Some pieces sway, some swoosh, some swing, some sigh. And the lyrical chords that open "Stairs" reach for the sublime.
"4D is a striking array of old and new allegories right and left with pianistics solely for the satisfaction immersion.It is flatly stunning."
-- Brilliant Corners, a Boston Jazz blog
Christian Carey, Sequenza 21
For a while around the turn of the millennium, avant-jazz pianist Matthew Shipp threatened to stop recording. One could understand why: he’s prolific beyond belief, and one could understand that an artist in the ‘out jazz’ realm might be fearful that an overly compendious catalog might be harmful to sales and recouping recording costs. Happily for those of us who wanted MORE from Matthew, he decided not to stay away from the studio, and has continued to record prolifically.
Shipp has also served as the curator of Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series, an imprint that has served to blur the boundaries of free and neo-trad jazz, and of jazz with other stylistic categories: electronica, hip hop, and even contemporary concert music. On his latest release, 4D, he’s continued in this vein. A solo outing, it presents both Shipp originals and standards. He even tackles venerable chestnuts such as “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Autumn Leaves,” as well as the gospel hymn “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”
"Shipp's playing is like some kind of inverted, dark-matter version of whatever you think a jazz pianist is going to sound like."
"The shape of the lines,the concept of melody,follows a strange original logic that is a tonic for so much else that deadens the ear."