Matthew Shipp Trio

Piano Vortex
Thirsty Ear THI 57180

Undeniably confirming that he can easily make an unhyphenated jazz album, Matthew Shipp puts aside the studio processing and remixing he’s used on sessions with electronica duo Spring Heel Jack or DJ Spooky for a standard jazz piano trio with notable results.

Filled out by the pianist’s long-time associates – drummer Whit Dickey and bassist Joe Morris – the New York-based combo runs through eight Shipp compositions, lodged so firmly in the tradition that the CD could be slotted alongside 1950s’Red Garland LPs with Paul Chambers and Art Taylor. Shipp quotes “Giant Steps” in the middle of one number and his unaccompanied track could be an offbeat variant on “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. No Taylor, Dickey snaps his cymbals and finesses the beat, leaving the heavy lifting to the others. Morris sticks mostly to low pitches, thumping or pumping behind Shipp’s bouncy runs and flashing cadenzas, rarely unveiling squat arco runs.

“Nooks and Corners”, one of the tunes on which he does so, is also the CD’s most incandescent track. Taken mid-tempo, the cooperation between the bassist and pianist is most evident on the tune when the later’s low-frequency octaves are extended with pedal work into flashing runs after the former’s legato bowing turns to sul ponticello squeaks then thick thrusts. Idiosyncratically, the pianist’s concluding statements are in the form of baroque-like pitter pattering.

Elsewhere Shipp’s skittering note clusters or whorl-like connections and Morris’ measured walking decisively situate the performances within the contemporary jazz framework. At least here, whirlwind-like creations lead to first-rate modern music.

— Ken Waxman

— For CODA Issue 337