Showing posts with label whit dickey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whit dickey. Show all posts

Friday, February 13, 2015

Matthew Shipp Trio, To Duke

Pianist Matthew Shipp has become in recent years a pianist at the very top of his game, one of the stylistic master pianists of our era. He is one of those very few pianists in jazz where every new recording must be heard, because each one breaks ground and/or consolidates his later developments.

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!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Matthew Shipp Trio, Root of Things

If you want to know what's going on, what's really critical in the piano trio zone for the very modern, so-called free jazz, avant garde jazz, whatever name you want to give it, seek no further. Or at least stop for a bit and get your ears into the new one by the Matthew Shipp Trio, Root of Things (Relative Pitch 1022).

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, April 6, 2011

Matthew Shipp's "Art of the Improviser": A Strong Voice Takes Center Stage


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.