Tuesday, January 24, 2017
It is a new one from the ever seminal Matthew Shipp Trio, Piano Song (Thirsty Ear TH157212.2). The latest edition of the trio has had a little time to season and ripen and certainly with this one they stride forward in an ever more confident way and an interplay of great depth and strong horizontal motion.
In short, they swing loosely and freely to raise the bar on what a contemporary piano trio direction consists of, how it can get beyond the accumulated tradition of more than 100 years of recorded jazz piano in an organic way, musico-naturally.
Matthew sounds inspired and relaxed, presenting 12 originals that serve as exemplary pianistic springboards for his three-way dialogues with bassist Michael Bisio and the newest trio member, Newman Taylor Baker on drums.
Bisio remains as always a spontaneously acute second melodic voice in the trio, a bassist with something original to say and the means to say it. His interactions with Matthew's smart-soulful piano declamations make this outing something special and further evolved. Newman Taylor Baker takes in all that his bandmates are doing and replies with both what may be called for and the unexpected, sometimes both at the same time.
And Matthew sounds as authoritative as ever, becoming what he in fact is, a prime carrier of the piano jazz legacy, a great synthesizer and innovator, a critically important voice in the new jazz of today.
This album simmers it all so that what is left is pure essence. No covers, no minimum, just music at a highest pitch, whether introspecting or clambering for the stars.
The Matthew Shipp trio these days is like a train that is ever arriving as it ever departs for destinations not yet known. The three in tandem exemplify what the improvisatory arts are all about when they are in their purest state. There can be no final destination because the track extends outwards into infinity.
Perhaps their very best, this is! So far.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Brain Groder is the thinking person's trumpet-flugel master and composer, to my mind. His compositions are complicated modern vehicles with a readily grasped core. They serve as excellent launching pads for the profound three-way goings-on between Groder, Bisio and Rosen.
Jay Rosen has made his mark as a member of Trio X (the trio with Joe McPhee and Dominic Duval) and sounds especially great on this album. He is a drummer of acute sensitivity, poise, swing and sound color.
Michael Bisio one of modern avant jazz's foremost bassists, often found these days as a member of Matt Shipp's wonderful trio. He shows why he is so highly regarded here, with some formidable contributions to the whole. You might listen to his playing in itself on these tracks and gain much, but of course his playing blossoms forth as an inegral part of this trio music.
Brian Groder gives us eight substantial compositions that form the basis for the angular geometric togetherness and bright improvisations to be heard. His special unvarnished but directly communicative prowess on his horns make the music come vibrantly alive. The music swings mightily and as needed crosses the border to freely articulated timelessness that nonetheless swings with the same energy and drive as the time-based grooving.
Everybody connects with a most eloquent unleashing of meaningful and moving music speech, something that is as rare in this realm as it is in the spoken word world we otherwise inhabit. They SAY a great deal, in other words, and what that is should very much be heard!
It is some music that brings you a model of how new jazz has evolved over the years to incorporate the expressive opening up of the music in the '60s into a new kind of superlative classicism. It thrives as chamber jazz but decidedly not of an anemic sort, far from it.
If you want to know something of where new jazz is today, I recommend this volume heartily. It has much great music to explore and unwrap. This is art, and a fine art indeed. Get a copy!!
Monday, October 19, 2015
The Matthew Shipp Trio is one such artist/group. Here we are with a new one, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear THI 57211.2). It is worthy and moving in ways that the Shipp Trio has been for a long time. Yet it is not entirely business-as-usual, not an eternal resurrection of the something that makes Shipp Trios exceptional. Yet there is continuity, yes.
One thing that stands out is the new addition to the personnel. Sure of course there is Matthew and the titan strength of Michael Bisio on bass. But this is the first recording with drummer Newman Taylor Baker. Using one drummer in place of another can sometimes change the thrust of the band dramatically. Think of the classic Trane Quartet with Elvin Jones, then with Roy Haynes on some of those dates when Elvin was unavailable. The band is playing in much the same mode, often enough the same pieces, but the result is influenced greatly by the change in percussive approach.
I would not go so far to say that replacing Whit Dickey with Newman leads to such radical change, but then that classic Trane quartet is so internalized for me and many of us that the presence of Haynes seems like a very different animal and is easily heard.
Newman Taylor Baker adds a very different drumming personality to the threesome. He plays time in his own very swinging way and his "free" and solo playing have an almost orchestral sense of drum sound possibilities, not to mention impeccable timing and sense of dialog. And the way he does all that shifts the trio's emphasis a bit.
Another thing maybe is the classical logic of Matthew's compositions. The whole album remains in the advanced trio zone, for sure, yet the compositional elements both make use of repetition in increasingly emphatic ways but also show roots going as far back as Duke, which is not surprising given the trio over time yet it nonetheless is a prime foundational element. The playing of the trio, Matt holding forth beautifully but Michael and Newman forming an integral lock to the three-tiered sound, is ever fresh, maybe also quite readily grasped by the listener perhaps not as much up on the "new new thing" jazz today as may be the case with other ears.
And there is lots of variety--an out rocking number, abstractions with razor sharp clarity and a nod to those greats that came before, transposed uniquely to the Shipp way of going about things.
Put all that together and you get a set that holds your ears in concentrated interest. And yes, it is smoking, always.
Is this the album that defines Matt Shipp and the Trio today? Sure, in part, though what is to come will continue to do that.
It is an album that should get attention for how it communicates vividly without compromising the spirit-essence of the Shipp way. He is one of the most important pianists on the scene now and this trio is essential in no lesser sense.
Don't miss out on the future of the present. It is here. It is very present on The Conduct of Jazz. Do not pass this one by!
Monday, April 13, 2015
Now we have a serious foray into improv new music chamber realms with the Matthew Shipp Chamber Ensemble and the album The Gospel According to Matthew & Michael (Relative Pitch 1035). The ensemble is indeed a platform for Shipp and Bisio but also Mat Maneri on viola, so that the Matthew perhaps refers to both? No matter, since it is the music at hand here that matters and it is extraordinarily varied, avant and thoughtful.
There are free threesomes of much inspiration, moments where Matthew, Michael or Mat take center stage in some solo spotlights, some ostinato-minimal tangents that are anything but predictable, and a great deal of true inspiration. The guiding vision of Shipp brings to bear at all times, yet there are individual contributions of a breakthrough sort at all times by all three.
We get throughout exploratory, probing music that does not content itself to repeat "free" vocabulary as much as it is determined to carve new ground. And it does. Bisio is a wonder here, with playing that demands your ear, but Michael comes forward with a pianistic pilgrimage into uncharted zones as well. Mat Maneri brings his own wide-ranging openness to the mix too, and his presence does much to help all three get to different places.
This set is one of the more ambitiously successful outings you are likely to hear this year, re-establishing Shipp as a master helmsman with one of the least predictable and most satisfyingly original pianistic sensibilities today. Bisio shows why he is at the top of the list for avant bassists with some pretty incredible work. And Maneri clocks in as a viola force of one.
This is the real thing, inventions as brilliant and original as they are "free."
Do not hesitate. Get this one! Bravo!
Friday, February 13, 2015
The Shipp Trio has become a phenomena unto itself. The combination these days of Matthew and Michael Bisio on bass is one of exciting and exalted rapport. Drummer Whit Dickey puts in a third voice of exceptional pliability on drums, pushing the music in rhythmically open directions with a special mastery of his own. I understand that he has left the group recently to pursue other projects. So this may be the last recording with this specific line up. This may well be the last recording with Dickey at the drums. He sounds good, very good.
The recording is To Duke (RogueArt ROG-060), a tribute to Duke Ellington with the trio doing very personal versions of seven Ellington classics, plus three Shipp compositions that play off of their immersion in Duke's magic.
There have been some threads recently on social media that question the in/out, avant/mainstream division as something that breaks down with artists who channel both tradition and innovation. Certainly the Shipp Trio here make a case for a simultaneity of stylistic preoccupations that transcends the splitting of categories in jazz practice.
The music respects the tradition in Shipp and Company's treatment of the Ellington themes. The themes are springboards to an original trio openness while retaining the identity of the themes very strongly. Matthew tends to state the themes with a special propulsion that puts them in a tempo zone, yet while this is happening bass and drums play freely in and around the tempo. Both Matthew and Michael then play freely with the implications of the themes, masterfully so, with abstracted offshoots of the thematic material that can be blazingly all-over, mesmerising in Matt's use of repetition-development of phrases, or post-Monkish punctuations with "syncopated" chordal bursts. But of course what is thought of as Monkish was also very much Duke-ish. Monk got something from Duke's playing that is not often spoken of, but you hear it if you listen to both closely. So that all fits.
The interaction of Shipp and Bisio by now has become a wonder. They intertwine around themselves in brilliant ways--and Dickey is right there opening up the rhythmic possibilities in and out of the implied tempo.
Every number has its own way of going about this--poetically, artistically, transcendently. It is brilliant as the art of improvisation. Matthew leads the way with an open inspiration that never flags. The couple of Shipp originals fit perfectly without straying from the path traveled by the trio here. "Sparks" is especially attractive and cool. It's a cut I would play for someone who asked me, "What is Matthew Shipp all about these days?" In around three minutes it states a great deal and then is gone, in ways similar to how Duke was initially limited to short time spans in the days of 78s. It says much in a compact space.
So, at the end of the day, after five listens, I must say this one is a kind of masterpiece. It's one of my favorite Shipp Trio albums. You need a little time to grow into it, or I did (always do) and then it stays with you after the music stops. It's that kind of experience. If you don't know Maestro Shipp's way, and there may be some out there who don't, this is a great place to start. It's a great place to BE, regardless. Get it!
Thursday, July 24, 2014
There's one piece by Joanne Brackeen; the rest are by Groder. He choose well in including bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen. Both respond with brilliance to free architectonics. Michael is one of the very foremost inventive bassists on the scene today and Jay a great drummer who does not always get the recognition he should, though as part of Trio X he gets exposure, surely. He sounds better and better these days.
So Jay responds beautifully and contributes his special time and color to this trio. Brian and Michael interact with exceptional grace and inventiveness. Both play out of the compositional implications of each number in interactive bliss and on their own.
The performances are not to be missed. The compositions hit you in the ears and the trio through-improvises on them with a musical logic that is outstanding.
Do not wait! Get this one because it rings out as one of the best this year!
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
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!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
It's a live date from Santa Monica, 1994. The band is an excellent one: Michael Bisio on bass and Michael Wimberly on drums. The sound is good, except Maestro Bisio is not entirely audible in the ensemble onslaughts. He has some nice unaccompanied moments however to make up for that. Wimberly is dynamic free heat throughout, pushing and prodding Gayle forward. Gayle himself is ablaze with Aylerian explosivity, pitching forward with the no-nonsense freedom that brought him to our attention with force in those days.
I guess if there is a point where we look for movement in his music (which we certainly get on his piano dates), this was not the time for him to give it to us, as he was still establishing the full-throttle presence and legendary persona-come-into-the-fray that brought such initial acclaim. He sounds anything but predictable here.
The set is marred slightly by a eight-minute verbal explosion Gayle throws at us to a free tumbling backdrop. It's angry, it's non-stop and it takes the form of an old-time backwoods sermon on "homosexuals," "fornicators," people who smoke, murderers, intellectuals and other variegated undesirables, and how they cannot listen or understand Dolphy, Trane, and etc., until they embrace the father, son and holy ghost. That seems to be the gist of it. If it's how he felt at the time, so be it. It does seem a bit extreme and the level of anger perhaps slightly mystifying. Not that he doesn't have the right to be angry--it's what he chose at this point to be angry about that I don't quite get. Quite obviously this is about the kind of gospel sincerity Ayler came across with towards the end of his career. Here it less convincing and, truth to tell, on repeated listens annoying.
The rest of the album is aces, though. At what point is enough of this period enough? Perhaps not yet, depending on how many recordings you have of '90s Gayle. This one has lots of heat and a crack team of Bisio and Wimberly to egg Gayle on. So it's mostly very nice to have.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Stephen Gauci is a tenorist that's getting things very together with a series of his own recordings and as a member of Michael Bisio's group. This time out he gets a nice combination of self, Mr. Bisio on bass, Kenny Wessel on guitar and Jeremy Carlstedt on drums. I've seen that they've been gigging around the city. Alas I've never have been able to catch them due to everyday snarls and SNAFUs.
But the album gets their music down for us all to hear. We have a good sampling of classic Monk tunes, like "Ruby My Dear" and "Nutty", only it's arranged subtly, differently, sometimes with a straight-eight funk feel, sometimes by extending a harmonic section, adding an ostinato, all good ideas.
Stephen sounds great, Kenny Wessel really comes on, Michael Bisio is his usual outstanding self and Jeremy Carlstedt does everything right.
So it's not "just" another Monk tribute. These guys have been playing the tunes for a long while and the arrangements seem like they evolved out of thinking about and dealing with the music, not as a grafting.
So it all rings out true and plumb without missing soul and expression! Stephen Gauci is a player you need to hear and this is a perfect place for that. Listen up and liken it up? You no doubt will.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Joe McPhee's Bluette serves as a good example. It did away with drums and conventional harmonic underpinning instruments in favor of a four-way double duo, so to speak. The Bluette has two dual centers if you ike, one around the "horn section" of McPhee on tenor, fluegel and alto clarinet, and Joe Giardullo on flute and bass clarinet. The second dual center brings in the two-member contrabass section of Michael Bisio and Dominic Duval. The 2001 date Let Paul Robeson Sing (CIMP 257) turns the players loose on spiritual and folk themes associated with the great singer's career, original themes and motifs as well as free-form interactions that do not reference themes per se.
What's remarkable about this session and the group in general is the great wealth of possibilities it realizes: solos, duos of horns, duos of basses, trios of various combinations and of course the full quartet. In Michael Bisio and Dominic Duval one finds an ideal combination of pizz and bowed inspiration. These are two of the very best bassists playing today (and then) in an imaginative zone and they come through. Joe Giardullo has bass clarinet presence here and great flute color; Mr. McPhee of course has no shortage of ideas whatever instrument he may chose to play. His tenor work may identify him in many ways but his work on fluegel and trumpet gives him an alternate persona, and the alto clarinet provides yet another timbre to work out of. The great variety of sound combinations and permutations this ensemble comes up with in the course of the album gives one pause on occasion. It's more than a double duo or a bifurcated quartet. It's an improv kaleidoscope of color, thrust, repose and regrouping.
It is music that one should turn up a little louder than would be the case with commercially ultra-compressed recordings one finds out there. CIMP records sound best when the quietest parts are clearly audible to you in your listening space. Do that and you get the group's tremendous dynamic range, the deep resonance of the basses, the tumultuous power of the horns and the whispers of thoughtful contemplation.
This is an album that plays tribute to the powerful Robeson, his courage in the face of systemized oppression and his ultimate transcendence. The Bluette does not so much tell the story in some musical-literal sense as it uses melodic and expressive elements that capture the man and his times.
It is a marvelously invigorating musical statement. It demands long-term concentration without distraction. Listen several times in such conditions and you will begin to feel the totality of the music as it evolves and develops.
It's a set one must hear. It is a testiment to the generative creative openess and responsiveness of Joe McPhee, Joe Giardullo, Michael Bisio and Dominic Duval. Four exceptional musical minds caught in time, timelessly.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Pianist David Arner is a musical voice that does not fit easily into the various schools of improvisation that are widely influential among the free school of players. He's managed to forge a path that does not cross directly the Cecil Taylors, the Paul Bleys, the Keith Jarretts, or the Bill Evans influenced players. Not that he has ignored these stylistic landmarks. Clearly not. But he chooses to go his own way.
You can hear that quite readily in the 2007 recording Out/In the Open (Not Two 812-2). It's a trio date with the formidable alliance of Arner with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jay Rosen, all key institutional-foundational figures in the creative improvisational music of the present era. The album's hour-long program features four collective improvisations, an Arner composition ("Intensities") and a standard ("My Romance").
There is remarkable piano trio interplay throughout. Rosen listens creatively to what Maestros Bisio and Arner are doing and gives out with the coloristic energy washes that he does so well; Bisio is alive with noteful counter improvisations to Arner's forward-pressing expressions; and David unleashes the full spectrum of the music he hears, which engages the jazz tradition, the expressive intensities of the avant, the expanded harmonic, melodic and textural potentialities of the piano and the musical ideas he has in abundance.
It's a documentary testament to what these three imaginative players can achieve in the space of a single session. And it's a sterling example of Arner pianism at its best.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Those who read my blogs know that I cover many of the very new releases but also think it worthwhile to cover things that might be a few years young, when there is something good about them to contemplate and dig. And so it is that, in the course of interviewing bassist Michael Bisio for All About Jazz (www.allaboutjazz.com) he mentioned his long association and friendship with Montana/Pacific Coast pianist Bob Nell. One thing led to another and I grabbed one of Michael's earlier CDs with Bob Nell on it (Covert Choreography, recently reviewed on the Gapplegate Guitar and Bass blog site, see link on this page), the result of which Bob Nell very graciously sent me a copy of his 2002 CD Soft & Bronze (Plechmo 4000).
I listened, found myself rather entranced with the music, and so step in this morning with a review posting on it. The Michael Bisio Cadence Jazz CD that I reviewed on the other blog had some wonderful Bob Nell pianism in a pretty outside vein. Soft & Bronze gives you a slightly different side. It's a classic piano trio configuration, with Bob, the formidable Mr. Bisio again on bass, and Brad Edwards on a churningly swinging set of drums.
It's a joyous romp through Nell's very hip originals. I am reminded listening to this one of the late Don Pullen. Not that Bob sounds like him, but they both share a rare ability to get profound musicality out of a changes-based postbop/nubop framework as well as the more outside excursions. Bob also can stay in a middle ground of Tyner-esque brightness and power with equal effectiveness.
This is a pianist that carries the full and venerable tradition of jazz piano on his shoulders. He can (and does) harness tradition's influence as an expressive means to his own musical ends. He has the touch and drive of the best of the classic players, but (and this is an important but) he speaks the language without plagiarizing the sentences, so to speak. Sometimes I hear a little Elmo Hope in there, too, and damned if I don't like to hear that!! Mr. Bisio sounds fabulous with Bob and Mr. Edwards is right there with them. A piano trio disk of brilliance, drive and complete mastery. Thank you, Bob! If you've missed this one, track it down by all means.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Returning shows the integrity and artistic brilliance of those early Paul Bley trios, then affirms that this is the Bob Gluck Trio, with certain affinities, but with the compunction and talent to extend the forms and personalize them.
The level of playing has consistency. It is high throughout. The music can be forceful, or whisper to you. It can get a head of steam in the linear swing-zone, then turn around and head into space. The improvisations revel in thematic logic and yet remain open to spontaneity.
Gluck is a stylist of stature. The trio has six hands, and at least three feet (in the musical sense) and they are put magnificently to use here.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
After a number of years as a key member of David Ware's Quartet, Matthew Shipp has found his own pianistic voice and brings it to the forefront on the new 2-CD set Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear 57197).
Matthew shows two facets of his playing on this set. The second disk is a live solo piano spot. It gives you Mr. Shipp the creative harmonic-melodist, a very inventive, musically imaginative improviser who makes music that stays in the mind.
The first disk too is a live date, this time with his new, formidable trio of piano plus Whit Dickey on drums and Michael Bisio, bass. Here we experience memorable compositional vehicles that open the way for inspired virtuoso bass work, barrages of quietly hip drumming in and out of time, and Shipp, the man who works in an advanced zone with his own take on the improvisatory tradition. You hear influences well transformed to suite his expressive needs, and an emerging original voice on the verge of greatness.
Both disks give you a bird's-eye view of creative work in progress, of the Shipp approach as it is evolving, of a trio that already creates goodly magic but can be expected to grow as they continue together.
I would venture to say that each disk ranks among the most interesting and important work being done right now in the solo and trio fields of improvisatory music. This is new music in the best sense of the term. It is music to be digested and understood over time, not an immediate toe-tapping kick in the teeth. Miss it and miss something vital in today's music world.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Improvisational music depends so much on the time, place and inspiration of the players. Once in a while, we are all lucky that the tape is rolling when everything conjoins wonderfully.
Session at 475 Kent (Mutable) is just such a recording. The place is Connie Crothers' studio, with great acoustics and a congenial environment to make some music. The time is May of last year, so late spring is in the air, and, well, let's just say that this is one of the most moving performances of free improvisation I've heard in a long time.
Connie Crothers makes pianistic things happen. She has devoted her life to a style that cannot be easily classified; even less can she be dismissed as "follower of so-and-so." It's Crothers who has gone her own way from the time of her first album in the '70s through to today. She has deep roots in the music, but whether she chooses to evoke them directly or not becomes a part of a performance on any given occasion. She has a very fertile, musically inventive gift and a pianistic touch that puts her in with the world-class few who can really make the piano sing. She does here.
Michael Bisio in many ways parallels Connie in that he is a marvelously inventive bassist that seemingly has burst forth over the years as a musical trunk rather than a branch. His technique is formidable, both pizzicato and arco, and he taps into a virtually inexhaustible wellspring of musical ideas when he plays.
These are two artists that have a perfectly simpatico viewpoint of what is possible in a freewheeling improvisational setting. The music they make on this recording is pure magic. Do not miss it.