Matthew Shipp

Slight Impressions of Grandiose Music

(written and translated
by Fabricio Vieira)

Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris and Gerald Cleaver put on one of the brightest concerts seen on stage in Brazil in a long time. Anyone who was at the theatre last night was presented with music at its highest point of expression.

Pure music, with no compromises. The group's interaction was such that it is hard to believe that before this concert they had only played together once: last Saturday, when they recorded an album in a studio. For about an hour, the quartet displayed a level of artistic exuberance that would seem unimaginable if we didn't know the standing of the musicians involved.

Perelman played in a way he hadn't done since the start of the century. Yesterday was the first time since at least "Suite for Helen F." (2002) that the saxophonist has played so intensely, with such a volcanic expression in his output. What was played showed not only that the cycle of partnerships between the saxophonist and the strings had ended: it signaled a voyage into another sphere.

During the first part of the concert, Perelman showed signs he had a stronger and more acid-edged grip than the other times he's played in the country. Keeping his tone throughout the whole concert, the saxophonist made his mark without ever overshadowing the other musicians.

Before the saxophonist made his last appearance, it was Morris and Cleaver who stirred the listeners: laying down, as a duo, a contagious circular cadence that seemed to head towards infinity. This passage ended up playing a part in the divine finale/epilogue, in which Perelman showed a lot of people why he is one of the most outstanding free scene saxophonists in the world.

I don't know if this last part will be repeated in today and tomorrow's concerts, or whether it was a one-off that will never return. What I do know is that it had such an impact, it's hard to imagine that anyone present was not absorbed by the enchanting and intoxicating final sequence.

We will seldom get the chance again to see, on a cold Thursday night, someone like Matthew Shipp displaying his fine artistry. Shipp is the most important name in contemporary piano playing. He has entered the pantheon inhabited by Monk and Cecil Taylor.

Listening to Shipp, and watching him, makes you realize that great music doesn't need comparisons such as "he plays like Coltrane" or "he plays like Miles." With delicate melodic fragments rising over the force of his hammering left hand, Shipp forges his own path, his own course independent of affiliations.

Anyone who was there and knows Joe Morris must have been keen to see him on guitar. Not that Morris hasn't got great mastery on the bass, which he took up only recently. He is simply the most important free guitar player about at the moment. Morris said he hasn't given up the guitar, and that he works with the two instruments at the same time. However, at the moment he is more focused on the bass. He doesn't know where this experience with the bass will take him. In any event, Morris and strings represent a magical, fluid association.

Gerald Cleaver is the rhythmic heartbeat of the group. Far from being a muscular drummer, Cleaver, always elegantly discreet, works intensely with high-hats and cymbals, and shows why he cites Tony Williams as one of his influences. Although he and Tony work in different contexts, it isn't too absurd to see a certain connection between them.

After the show, Shipp and Morris wandered through the lobby, talking to anyone who went up to them. Two of the greatest geniuses in contemporary music mingling as if they were just two ordinary musicians at the end of a day's work in the bar where they play every weekend...

F. Vieira - translated from Portuguese-

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