October 17, 2010
Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris
More like a cozy song-swap around the campfire by a trio of equals than an intergenerational showdown or torch passing, Night Logic still offers 10 real-time improvisations between of representative of today’s advanced music and a musician who has trawled the sonic spaceways for many decades.
Pianist Matthew Shipp, 49, epitomizes the contemporary multi-directional explorer, at home playing in advanced Free Music situations with bassist Mike Bisio and saxophonist David S. Ware, to cite two, as he is involved in synthesizers and programming with Chris Flam or the Anti-pop Consortium. Joining him here is multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen, 86, who has been part of Sun Ra’s Arkestra since 1956 and led the large improvisational ensemble since Ra’s death 16 years ago. Backing both with stops and strokes that are usually more felt than heard is bassist Joe Morris, 54, equally renown for his guitar playing.
Oddly – or perhaps appropriately, considering the Arkestra’s futuristic bent – it’s Allen who brings the electronic sounds to the date, playing an EVI or electronic valve instrument as well as his customary alto saxophone and flute. Recorded in real time at New York’s Roulette, the date really takes off in its second half as the two main men finally realize exactly what each can contribute to the session.
For instance, Shipp’s relaxed and definitely Jazz-like introduction to “Star Dust Splatter” is quickly deconstructed with stops, chordal voicing and measured glissandi, as Allen enters on alto with characteristic flattement, squeezed refractions and split tones. With Morris plucking and pumping his strings, dynamic strums and pressured crescendos from the pianist match the saxophonist’s gurgles and squeals, eventually calming both sides of the equation so that the results are melodic inventions that are both languid and moderato. The finale consists of a series of rebounding strums from the bassist.
Alternately, as on the title tune, when Shipp chimes sharply across the piano’s inner strings in repetitive syncopation, it’s Allen whose gentling flute flight moderate the mood. Of course being the trickster he has been for years, once Morris’ arco sweeps and the pianist’s restrained plinking join him in near-bucolic repose, Allen pulls out his saxophone for a series of reed-biting slurs and irregular vibrations.
Even the EVI with its almost signal-processed squeaks and buzzes as exhibited on “Particle Physics” doesn’t upset the sonic connection. Faced with this sequence of outer-space-like interjections, it’s Morris whose speedy staccato runs pulls the reedist back from the cosmos, ending the piece by uniting his walking bass line with near-rococo phrasing from Allen’s flute.
Elsewhere, when the reed man creates discordant slide-whistle-like toots from his EVI, Shipp impels the momentary disconnect into tripartite tonal cooperation with a variety of strategies. It could be metronomic key pounding, fungible block chords or even a detour into what could be “Chopsticks”. Without compromising any of the players’ exploratory impulses, consonant interludes trump disharmony with the musical result as satisfying as it is high class. Depending on the time frame all of this might not have unrolled within night logic, but it was the right logic for this CD.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Ark of the Harmonic Covenant 2. Bow In the Cloud 3. Night Logic 4. Heart Aura 5. Star Dust Splatter 6. Cosmic Hammer 7. Particle Physics 8. Harmonic Quanta 9. New Age for the Milk Sea Nightmare 10. Res X
Personnel: Marshall Allen (alto saxophone, flute and EVI [electronic valve instrument]); Matthew Shipp (piano) and Joe Morris (bass)