What makes me say all that? Matthew Shipp occupies a place at the top of the piano artists of the past decade and he sounds better than ever right now. His compositions and his way of soloing are not an attempt to blow you away with sixteenth-note runs, though he has plenty of technique and he can let loose with torrents. Maestro Shipp focuses on the music, on saying in his very own way what the music can only say. This is pianism of elegance, eloquence and soul. It has tradition but it's channeled to the Shipp vision. Neither static nor automatic-pilot rocketing helter-skelter out to the stratosphere, it is music that builds inside itself and can rocket out and does, but as a product of the ground-laying and years of playing and thinking about it that Matt exemplifies. And the set on this album shows that in a beautiful way. This is a laying down, a laying back and a laying forward, all in the course of the set.
Such well-conceived and well-executed musical presence would not completely succeed without an equally inspired trio unit that understands and pulls together with ultra-sensitive, unity-in-difference interplay. This is a trio whose time is now, right now. They've never sounded better. Listen to how contrabassist Michael Bisio interacts with it all. He adds so much in a monsterously good way. The deeply flushed tone, the unexpected or reconfirming note choices, the way he can walk or be that "second horn", the impeccable touch and in-the-moment thrust, all that is here in a fantastic way.
Then Whit Dickey, who has been in the trio for a long time. The drummer's role in today's piano trio is ever more important and Whit fills the role with more than just what is needed. He cauterizes the momentum, colors the sound brilliantly and implies a swing that for the trio is lurking underneath it all and rises to the top continually if you listen closely. Whit Dickey has an awful lot to do with how it all lays out from piece-to-piece.
All this talk of three separate beings is important because it dissects the whole and helps you understand what to expect. The listening experience puts it all together of course and there has never been a more together trio--though of course there have been those that equal it in different ways.
On every level this is what "jazz" is about today. Many years of preparation from all three separately and in togetherness makes such a high level of inspiration possible. Don't take it for granted--this is a set that comes out of the highest art by three that have worked themselves hard to get into the space they now occupy with confidence and ultimate artistry.
The CD comes out next month, March 18th, to be exact. Do not miss this one if you want to know what's going on today. The Matt Shipp Trio are an indispensable part of that what. They are at their very best right now, so you'll want to be there for this!