Monday, April 13, 2015

Matthew Shipp Chamber Ensemble, The Gospel According to Matthew & Michael

There is no doubt in my mind that pianist-improv composer Matthew Shipp is on a roll these days. Perhaps it has to do with the inspiration of teaming up with bass-giant Michael Bisio, and/or any number of reasons, but he has been touching to gold like Midas everything he's been trying recently. The last outing To Duke (type that in the search box above for my posting) gave us a respectful inside-outside tribute that glowed with creativity.

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!

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