Not everybody can be at the top. Among the very best of the improvisers today. The most creative and inventive. The most consistent. Michael Bisio, acoustic bass, and Matthew Shipp, piano, belong to the group of those very few, special players active in avant improvisational music, what is often called "free jazz." But the category doesn't mean anything when they play. Because they are playing what they hear and feel, not "category music." They have been playing together in a trio with drummer Whit Dickey for a couple of years now, isn't it? And now they pair down to a duo for some adventurous music on the about-to-be-released Floating Ice (Relative Pitch 1005).
It's the two of them thrusting the music forward as they continue to bring the history of the style to bear as reference and jumping off points. So you'll hear some themes that bounce and bop like Monk meets Nichols, references to the ragtime era, and other pre-epochal glances.
And throughout this disk, as is apparent in all they do lately, there is improvising of high originality. Michael is a thoughtful bass tornado whether playing pizzicato or arco, and brings deep feeling and deeply charged energy into the mix. He plays lines that you don't expect, pretty much all the time. Matthew is a lickless pianist. He creates out of a large imaginative palette of musical sounds and he virtually plays what he hears one-on-one with the imagination of it. So you hear him in all his immediacy, in all his various creative moods and channelings of the music and what it means to him.
The two together as a duo do not disappoint. But then I don't believe anything either has done in the last decade has let me down in any way. They play music with the structure and heft of composition, but it's spontaneous. That is remarkable.
These are two at the top of the era and they behave like it on this wonderful disk. It's beyond category. Avant, sure. But essential no matter what you call it. Piano-bass duets? Call it that. This is our music today and they are making some of the best!