Monday, December 28, 2020

Rich Halley, Matthew Shipp, Michael Bisio, Newman Taylor Baker, The Shape of Things


At any given moment in music there are thousands upon thousands of great and compatible musical artists in New Jazz who could theoretically get together and play, a group consisting of all possible musical companions alive and performing actively, charging forward into the now. Yet of course there are possibilities that ultimately come about and those that do not, for whatever reasons, the logistics of time and place hindering a session in the realities of everyday life as much as anything, maybe.

Thankfully there are those possible intersections of promise that do come together, and what's more are recorded under the right circumstances so we can hear them later in time. And so the music is ever enshrined for posterity, for those who will listen years ahead and get the message, one can only hope. 

Lucky for us such an intersection and recording has come about with tenor man Rich Halley and the Matthew Ship Trio (Shipp, piano, Michael Bisio, contrabass, and Newman Taylor Baker on the drums). The album captures faithfully the excitement of the meeting last August. And happily it is out. It is entitled The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle Records  CD 013).

For those of you like me who have been following these artists, the very mention of the get-together makes one perk up with anticipation, for all have been doing great work in the Avant-New-Free Jazz zone for years. Each is a distinctive, personal, innovative voice on the scene. The six-segmented session, beautifully recorded and wonderfully performed, is one of those high points in the music, an intersection where everything is right.

The warmth of the improvisations put me in mind of the classic later Coltrane Quartet and Quintet. Not in terms of imitation, of course. Rather the fire of conviction and inventive scope for this foursome is in the best tradition of such things, stemming from the Trane-Ayler-Ornette days onward, fully fired in its very own way. The music freely tumbles out like a fountainhead, sometimes directly swinging but always in any event implicating a testificatory pulse that underlies without always having to give out with the periodicity. There are moments that roll by with the kind of focused energy we heard in  Trane's "Sunship," a high powered step ahead. This is invention of a high order, every bit as good as what I had hoped for when I was fortunate to find The Shape of Things in my mailbox the other day.

This is music one would  be glad to end the Pandemic with (soon, one hopes)--reminding us what musically we have to look forward to once we normalize the world and can freely interact again! All four artists are super-articulated, note inspired, cascading and tumultuously bearing witness in sound.

All four are at their very best and form a quartet summit of great sounds. There is wall-to-wall inspiration to be heard on this album--one of the very best Avant Jazz offerings this year, absolutely. Be sure to hear it, get it.


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