It doesn't seem so long ago that pianist Matthew Shipp emerged as a fiery iconoclast of the piano, a fearless experimenter whose tempestuous soliloquies ranged freely among jazz, classical and avant-garde idioms.
Shipp recently turned 50, and to mark the occasion he has released a monumental double-CD, "Art of the Improviser" (Thirsty Ear).
Though not for timid ears, Shipp's pianism sounds as galvanic as ever, but especially on the second CD, which documents a live solo piano recital. Few pianists command a comparable improvisational imagination, nor the technical wherewithal to realize it. Shipp sounds similarly dynamic in the live trio recording of the first CD, which – with the exception of an overly long bass solo early in the recording – flies like the wind. Ultimately, "The Art of the Improviser" not only sums up Shipp's achievements to date but points promisingly toward important music yet to come.
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