Matthew Shipp's New Orbit
By Nils Jacobson, AllAboutJazz.com
Step into the temple. Leave your busy frenzy behind. This is a place to respect and honor the higher power. Matthew Shipp's second Thirsty Ear record since his temporary "retirement" at age 38 pays open tribute to the interstellar spirituality of Coltrane and Ra.
New Orbit is a somber, gothic affair bearing some similarity in tone to Shipp's early work (eg. Circular Temple), but lacking the striking density and overt tension of his work from that period. The general approach here is extroverted but deliberate.
Much of New Orbit consists of open space. Shipp develops dark wispy themes with a structural focus; Leo Smith soars along warm, rich lines; William Parker bows a foamy harmonic stream. Harmonically speaking, these themes tend to rely upon tonal centers and a general pattern of conflict and resolution. When the quartet convenes in its entirety, William Parker's thick pulse and Gerald Cleaver's insistent forward-looking percussion drive the group's intensity to a higher level. This interplay tends to accent Smith's vibrant trumpet work, which bridges the gap between melodic simplicity and harmonic multiplicity.
Imagine sitting in an ancient stone church with high spires, arched hallways, and massive wooden doors hung on huge cast iron hinges. The glass in the windows is almost liquid: it's translucent but not transparent. Patterns of blue and green move across the floor with the travel of the sun across the sky. You can feel a spiritual force moving you, but you can't see a thing. This is the temple. This is where Shipp leads you on New Orbit. Make no mistake: the music is contemporary and progressive; but the emotions behind it are as ancient as yearning itself.
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