May 27, 2019
Matthew Shipp-Mat Maneri
Conference of the Mat/ts
RogueArt ROG 0085
Leo Records CD LR 860
Matthew Shipp Trio
ESP Disk 5029
Now that he’s finally on the cusp of reaching elder statesman status, New York pianist Matthew Ship has become accepted as a band leader, soloist and valued musical associate. Over the years he’s developed numerous distinctive affiliations and these CDS show off his skills in duo, trio and quartet settings with no letdown in imagination.
A close associate since the mid-1990s, Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman has recorded with the pianist in many formats. Part of the saxophonist’s series of exploration of varied instrumental configurations Strings 4 adds Shipp’s power pacing to a front-line encompassing Nate Wooley’s trumpet and the viola of Mat Maneri, who has also been working closely with the pianist since the 1990s. Divided into nine parts, the main strategy is for Maneri’s muted scrapes and swipes, and Perelman’s sighs and cries to establish themes, which are decorated by the trumpeter’s intermittent slurs, and held together by piano comping. Interspersing dulcet and dissonant sequences, breadth of communication allows the four to touch on many motifs. “Part 8” for instance contrasts a pseudo swing section via piano and strings with stylized barks and growls from the trumpeter, echoed by the saxophonist, which eventually reverts to stretched stylized swipes from Maneri. Most of the variations on “Part 3” take place in almost uncomfortable high registers, although the trebly horn punctuation follows a piano introduction that almost says late night Jazz club. With gutbucket trumpet smears and speedy straight-ahead fiddling propelled at different tempos and directions, it’s up to Shipp’s sweeping ripostes to add emotional heft to those angular improvisations. Coming up with an even more unexpected finale than usual, “Part 9” melds plunger trumpet and fidgety reed bites into near Dixieland, with Shipp’s percussive keyboard pounding a processional line which anchors the piece. Later multiphonic disruptions from the so-called front line are still not enough to orient the four away from cohesion or another interpretation of how cohesion can still be the end result of cerebral improvisations.
Thirteen improvisations from the previous year, Conference of the Mat/ts shows how well two players who have built up an understanding over the years can create almost by interference. “Conference #10” for example is a duet for varied voicing, with the violist’s whirls and arabesques defining as almost pure swing, while the pianist’s clean key clipping fills in any remaining holes. Eventually the double counterpart connects with string multi stops and keyboard pumps. Even in duo rather than quartet formation, Maneri and Shipp choose contrasting strategies to express studied interaction, whether bouncy yet distant as on “Conference #2”; or with piano playing so multi-textured that it reflects 19th Century Impressionism, as on “Conference #3”. Here scrambling string spiccato and angled japes to encourage tones to ricochet off each other and produce a satisfying narrative. Such is their skillful control that as “Conference #7” unrolls, mood and tempo alteration from pump and sweep to easily going narrative shakes is accomplished without bravado, By the conclusion, chamber music-like formalism from Shipp and multi-string voicing from Maneri, as well as every manner of atonality has been explored in so many ways that the conclusive backwards and forward narrative becomes comforting as well as cohesion
Those same adjectives could be applied to Signature, the newest outing from Shipp’s trio. The combo is filled out by bassist Michael Bisio, who has been involved in many projects with Shipp since this century early teens; and septuagenarian drummer Newman Taylor Baker, who has worked with everyone from Billy Bang to Billy Harper. As sophisticated in using space as Ahmad Jamal and in propelling kinetic clusters as Cecil Taylor, the pianist still allots adequate solo space to each of the others. Each of the preceding nine tracks also serves as prologue to the concluding “This Matrix” which is explored over 16¼ glorious minutes. Energetically cementing chords and asides as he plunges through the narrative, Shipp’s treble tones and repetative cadenzas quickly set up an exposition oozing excitement. Scooping out hordes of chords the splattering energy quickly expands to bring in bent-string stretches from Bisio and energetic ruffs from Baker, concluding with a coda of lively stops from the pianist. While nothing replicates this tour-de-force other pieces present equal group communication. “The Way” for example finds Shipp simultaneously emphasizing the most elevated and most subterranean parts of his instrument, with cymbal shots and cooperative thumping from the bassist on side. Ricochets from the piano’s soundboard and rim-shot clips from Baker give way to an interlude of near-Impressionism from the pianist involving the instrument’s harp-like qualities; and with an ending both ceremonial and swinging. “Flying Saucer” soars along with a combination of drum energy and repeated piano patterning, some of which involves pedal action. Melding dissonance and dance rhythms, Shipp’s staccato jumps are somewhat reminiscent of Herbie Nichols’, ending with a line that’s faster and looser. “Zo #2” is a rhythmically exciting recasting of a piece Shipp has previously recorded, with continuous asides and detours; while “Stage Ten” confirms the close relationship between the bassist and pianist, infusing a walking bass line with a Shipp solo that again brings out the piano strings’ strumming harp qualities.
Once again, each of these sessions proves the pianist’s originality and adaptability. Each and all can be listened to with appreciation.
Track Listing: Strings: 1. Part 1 2. Part 2 3. Part 3 4. Part 4 5. Part 5 6, Part 6 7. Part 7 8. Part 8 9. Part 9
Personnel: Strings: Nate Wooley (trumpet); Ivo Perelman (tenor saxophone); Mat Maneri (viola) and Matthew Shipp (piano)
Track Listing: Conference: 1, Conference #1 2. Conference #2 3. Conference #3 4. Conference #4 5. Conference #5 6. Conference #6 7, Conference #7 8. Conference #8 9. Conference #9 10.
Conference #10 11. Conference #12. Conference #12 13. Conference #13
Personnel: Conference: Mat Maneri (viola) and Matthew Shipp (piano)
Track Listing: Signature: 1. Signature 2.Deep to Deep 3. Flying Saucer 4. Snap 5. The Way 6. Stage Ten 7. Speech of Form 8. Zo #2 9. New Z 10, This Matrix
Personnel: Signature: Matthew Shipp (piano); Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums)