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.

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