Matthew Shipp

The Sorcerer Sessions

Matthew Shipp is a jazz pianist with a classical bent. To call William Parker's mastery of the bass versatile would be a vast understatement. Even Ziporyn, new to the Blue Series, is best known for his role as clarinetist and arranger of the Bang On A Can Allstars. Daniel Bernard Rounamin, one of the most respected young violinists and composers in the classical world, is already known to fans of the Blue Series, having contributed his virtuosity to both DJ Sparky's Optometry and the David S. Ware String Ensemble's Threads. FLAM, who programmed beats for Matthew Shipp's Nu Bop and Equilibrium, also adds his tricky synth work to Sorcerer Sessions, manipulating his machines into fluid instruments.

The jazz and classical worlds are no longer merely intersecting. The door into a new world has been opened, birthing a new breed of advanced improvisational ambient music. The outcome is both playful and challenging, cerebral and relaxing, a vision that has waited too long to be fulfilled.

Thirsty Ear


Upon encountering the opening moments of "Pulsar, " the opening cut from Sorcerer Sessions, the listener may feel as if she had purchased the wrong recording. Pianist Matthew Shipp's pronounced chord voicings sound as if they might be lost compositions from Erik Satie's "Rosicrucian" series. When clarinetist Evan Ziporyn and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain enter in a gorgeously entwining series of harmonies and slippery, nearly Hungarian-styled melodic statements, the illusion will seem convincingly complete.

Only upon the typing sounds of "Keystroke" countered by electronically manipulated clarinet and piano lines does the feel of the sonic encounter feel like the music of Matthew Shipp. Add to this set bassist William Parker, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and electronica whiz FLAM, and you have a new collective, one not so much interested in the jazz-conversant compositions of Shipp's Equilibrium album, but a collective turning Shipp's compositions into extrapolations of form, content, and Muse-like utterances.

As the album continues, through "Light forms," "Urban Shadows," "reformation," "Last Chamber," and other selections, it becomes clear that this is no mere fusion of classical ,jazz, and electronic aesthetics, but a new ethereal body of music that exists outside genre, and attempts to exist outside time and space. Indeed, while it references a past that has indeed passed into ghostly revisionist memory, it also references not so much a future, but an eternally shape-shifting present that cancels out the need for a future simply because everything that is possible or that can be dreamed of musically, can also be -- and is -- written, executed, and performed.

Structural content has been Shipp's muse for a while now, since 1996's By The Law Of Music, where he first collaborated and wrote for a string trio's accompaniment. For those who were put off by Nu Bop or New Orbit, this might come as a pleasant surprise; for those who have followed Shipp's career this collaborative effort -- this music -- could not have been executed in this manner without this particular group of musicians seeking to forge -- from the composer's music -- an entirely new evolutionary sound that exists not only outside genre, but reconsiders the time and space continuum as inclusionary, inseparable, and limitless.

The Blue Series Continuum has given us a recording worth considering for years to come. Along with David S. Ware's Threads, the Thirsty Ear label has given us, in 2003, two recordings that marry composition to improvisation in new ways, with new dictates and concerns. They are a pair of the most profound albums to come out of the jazz idiom in a very long time. This is aural dynamite and will challenge your accepted notions about not only jazz and classical music, but about the role of music in your life.

--Thom Jurek, Barnes and Noble

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