DANIEL PIOTROWSKI, Diamondback
Pianist Matthew Shipp has compared boxing and jazz. It's not a difficult comparison; his music hits hard and has left listeners and critics stunned.
"To an untrained ear, jazz can sound crazy, to an untrained eye boxing ran seem mad," wrote Shipp for the liner notes to his 1997 record, "The Flow of X." As the ear and eye become trained, one learns the complex patterns that underlie the boxing match or the jazz solo."
Shipp's uncompromising musical theories, along with his frequent output of recordings has placed him at the front of improvised jazz. He is, however, one of the main reasons people haven't taken an interest in the avant-garde.
Shipp is doing more than just riding the next wave in jazz. The 37-year-old pianist is one of those musicians causing earthquakes that create the tidal wave. He was part of the revolution that invaded rock record labels in the mid-'90s.
His name began to surface as he frequently appeared as a sideman on various records on the Homestead label. Shipp also issued a record on the Austin, Texas punk and hardcore label Rise Records and had three albums on Henry Rollins's label, 2.13.CD, and saw his trio's debut released on the Rollins and Rick Rubin project, Infinite Zero Records.
Over the past 10 years, Shipp has stepped out to be the most important and creative pianist playing today. His contributions to records by heavyweight saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell, David S. Ware and guitarist Joe Morris are the reason such albums have received such heralded critical review.
Shipp's peerless style is influenced by Cecil Taylor, Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk, but never stuck into mimicking other players. His percussive style is reminiscent of Taylor's "eighty-eight drums" theory, but is still melodic and decorative like Monk or Evans. The result is an iconoclastic mode that complements the many musicians and situations Shipp plays. in.
Various recording dates have allowed Shipp to showcase his ability to create with different groups. His duo records with saxophone, bass or guitar accompaniment are among his finest. Shipp has also had the opportunity to release a pair of solo albums.
Shipp's main group started as a trio with drummer Whit Dickey and, bassist-of-the-century, William Parker. The group then expanded to a quartet, including Mat Manieri on violin. The departure of Dickey would open the group up to a new level of musical contemplation.
By the Law of Music (Hat-Art, 1997), Shipp's latest trio record, debuted one of jazz's most distinctive groups. Shipp's "string trio" is unique in its absence of a drummer and horn players. The interaction of Shipp's piano with Manieri's violin and Parker's bass crates an unparalleled combination of sound. Shipp's percussive keyboarding combined with Parker's pounded-out bass notes make listeners forget about the absence of a drummer. The group's product is unmatched.
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