Matthew Shipp/Sabir Mateen

SaMa Live in Moscow
SoLyd SLR 0408

By Ken Waxman

Rather than Moscow on the Hudson, this session is more like the Lower East Side transferred to near Red Square, as two of Manhattan’s most accomplished downtown improvisers express their art for an enthusiastic audience in the Russian capital.

Associates in a variety of group as well as consummate band leaders, pianist Matthew Shipp and especially multi-reedist Sabir Mateen aren’t constrained by technique when either feels the need for expression beyond standard notes. At the same time, as indicated by the inclusion of Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” in the set list, both have strong links to the ongoing tradition.

At the same time staunch traditionalists may blanch at “Yesterdays”, since Mateen’s screeching altissimo textures and Shipp’s initial keyboard pounding spell atonality before the familiar melody statement appears. During the remainder of the tune, the pianist references stride while limning staccato and highly decorated variations, occasionally flirting with the theme. Meanwhile Mateen, on tenor saxophone, is engaged in deconstruction. His passages of screaming glossolalia and irregular vibrations break the tune into whistling and honking sound shards. Cascading keyboard chords again expose the melody near the finale with Matten’s riposte paced animal-like cries.

Although the CD begins with a fairly standard blues progression on Shipp’s part, most of the sounds here are aleatory and aggressive. “Inner Chambers”, the CD’s 21½-minute climax is broken into several interludes transmitting a variety of voicings and dynamics. On clarinet, Mateen’s contralto notes start moderato and gentle, and return to calm at the finale. In between however, his tempo is always staccatissimo and his volume stentorian, with passionate altissimo squeaks and splintered chalumeau. In contrast Shipp’s harpsichord-like internal string plucking gives way to a dramatic near-etude where key coloration encompasses ringing impressionistic variations and concludes with a meditative note overlay.

A glimpse of sonic freedom unaffected by Putin-styled state capitalism, SaMa gave the audience at the DOM cultural center plenty of reasons to lustily applaud.

Tracks: SaMa Blues; Ma Solo; Moscow Spaces; Yesterdays; Inner Chambers; Kinetic (encore)

Personnel: Sabir Mateen: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Matthew Shipp: piano

—For New York City Jazz Record June 2011