Matthew Shipp | Un Piano | RogueArt Jazz

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Matthew Shipp: piano

Recorded on July 21st and 22nd 2007 by Hugo Dwyer at MPI Studio (New York, Ny, Etats Unis). Mixing & mastering: Hugo Dwyer. Liner notes: Steve Dalachinsky. Photographs: Lorna Lentini. Producer: Michel Dorbon

Tracklist: 1. Enter In (3.05) 2. Geometry (4.11) 3. Sparks (2.40) 4. Spike (3.31) 5. Linear Shocks (5.42) 6. Two Things Together (4.46) 7. Whole Zone (1.58) 8. Simple Fact (3.18) 9. Riddle (3.35) 10. Cloud Chamber 6 (6.10) 11. Harmony of Apollo (4.56) 12. Exit Out (3.26)

All compositions by Matthew Shipp

this music, one piano /one pianist, is a system both simple & severe. it contains a full dimension of style, range, technique & sound sources. it does equally well, feels equally (un)comfortable at home (alien) here in(ner) out(er) (s)pace using broad designs, vagaries, different & difficult patterns & obvious mannerisms. it is flutt’ring soundsheets in an unpredictable breeze of varying weights. a wealth of oppositional yet embracing sequences (like nature itself). clumsy elegance lifted into, soaking & unburdening the EAR. as precious stone is heavy yet beautiful to behold & light to the touch. plundering culturally formulated ideals, manners & mannerisms. a full course meal consumed. — Steve Dalachinsky, excerpt from the liner notes

Matthew Shipp | Un Piano | rogueart jazz

Matthew Shipp | Photo by by Lorna Lentini

Alone with his instrument

Shipp carries on a conversation with silence on Un Piano; silence is an active participant in many of the pieces. On “Enter In” he lets both single notes and chords decay slowly and disappear before putting another in its place. On “Spike” sudden sharp notes prick glittering holes in silence. “Cloud Chamber 6” is held together by the slenderest of threads, lines dissolve in mid air, round chords chime and melt away, riffs that should propel the music forward expire. Shipp’s reluctance to resolve these gestures, or gather them into a false symmetry creates an aura of mystery and sense of an infinite music without beginning or end. A few of the tracks fill the silence more completely. Long garlands of notes periodically jabbed at by fists of chords create a darting and weaving “Linear Shocks.” The melodic thread of “Harmony of Apollo” stands out in glittery relief against a dark and busy background. “Geometry” works hard at avoiding the obvious or conventional. Shipp’s abrupt mood swings send it swerving in different directions; he uses the sustain pedal to reshape notes; he opens sudden gaps in the middle of his lines, letting silence fill the air before resuming. It’s as if he’s stripping everything else away and starting fresh, waiting to hear what his piano has to tell him. Shipp has always had a huge chunk of the piano literature at his fingertips and he’s shaped it to his own ends with exceptional skill in the past. But here, you’d be hard pressed to point to “influences” or antecedents; on this album, Shipp is chasing a pure piano sound.

Matthew Shipp | Un Piano | rogueart jazz

Matthew Shipp | Photo by by Lorna Lentini

Multiplication Table, recorded by Shipp’s working trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Susie Ibarra in 1997, finds Shipp often dipping into a deep well of musical traditions and refashioning them in his own image. It’s not as if he is building a pastiche or working out influences before finding his voice. It’s more like he finds phrases or passages reminiscent of Debussy or Andrew Hill or Chopin or Cecil Taylor as he searches, molds them into something of his own and continues digging. The music sounds beyond individual style, or category, as if it was plucked from an infinity of sound that is free for the picking. Parker is an intensely focused presence, zeroed in on his own lines, wrestling with sounds and tossing out energy. Ibarra disperses the beat into a generalized web of sound and rhythm. She lets the different sounds of the trap kit suggest melodies, hints at fixed beats momentarily, circles round and round a center that only she sees. All the activity masks how deliberately Shipp works, how closely and without effort the music grows together into a single entity. “Autumn Leaves” gets blown from the trees in a gale of thundering chords and rapidly shifting musical references, but the melody resurfaces frequently throughout the storm, providing an anchor for the improvisations. “C Jam Blues” and “Take the ‘A’ Train” also provide touchstones for group expositions that venture far from their starting points. The freedom with which this band worked is best heard on the exhilarating “The New Fact,” on which Shipp and Parker play with marvelous confidence, each secure in the knowledge that whatever he plays will work with the other. There’s a similar boldness to the sound pieces, “ZT 1–3” scattered through the album, with bowed bass rasps, piano-string pings, washes of cymbals and other timbres and textures paired up with or played off against each other to dazzling effect.

These are two very different albums, and it would be wrong to think of the earlier one as in any way immature. Shipp is a pilgrim and these two albums are signposts along the road. Ed Hazell


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One thought on “Matthew Shipp | Un Piano | RogueArt Jazz

  1. Vision does not come all at once. It builds over time and through experience. A component of vision is awareness, for if experience cannot be witnessed and objectified, then awareness might evade consciousness. How to break convention and move into directions that are untapped requires self-confidence and self-trust. Vision and creativity are inseparable, dynamic partners.

    On his second solo album, Un Piano, pianist Matthew Shipp demonstrates his fearlessness in stepping outside of the standard that he has set for himself in the past to define yet another standard to support his continuation, through his indisputable interactions with the cosmos.

    Bolstered by the grammar of his ornament-less language, nothing keeps Shipp from going inside the piano to literally mark a path to enter into his improvisations for this recording. Timed silences between one sound and another maintain the flow of the motion as well as the separation between them. The three minute overture, “Enter In,” presents in an uncomplicated manner how to listen to the next forty-five.

    Since his first solo album, One (Thirsty Ear, 2006), Shipp has refined the phases of his music’s evolution. “Geometry” progresses logically from “Enter In” fully onto the keyboard. Thereafter, the recording unfolds and builds intelligently through masterful design.

    Un Piano resembles a series of etudes (“Harmony of Apollo” reflects Bach’s fugue variations). Yet, the overall album’s fluidity and internal nuances are more than magnified. The distinctions between one musical notion and the next, not only from one piece to the next but within each piece, are sharpened. Additionally, Shipp brings attention to the concept that tempo mirrors the rhythm of the human body as much as written time signatures can denote pace.

    Shipp’s crashes through barriers throughout the recording, but heard in the exact middle of the recording (“Two Things Come Together”), a bass alternating two-chord ostinato culminates a piece that begins softly, has melodic, bluesy overtones, and a mid-range single note repetition pointing to the near future (“Exit Out”). The bass ostinato signifies improvisational epiphany, hinges back to front, past to present and old to new. The idea of totality surmounts duality.

    Reformulating his straightforward language does not mean that Shipp erases anything. It means that precedence feeds spontaneity. It means that he has permission to press the sustenuto pedal for as long as it takes for the resulting impact to fade away (“Enter In,” Cloud Chamber 6″). It means that he can touch the keys more expressively and clearly than ever before (“Linear Shocks”); it means that the phrases, chords and note progressions, which often can transmute rhythmically to tunes, are juxtaposed so abstractly that their articulation exceeds all expectations (“Whole Zone,” “Cloud Chamber 6”).

    Shipp reaches sonorities similar to the ones he has discovered before, but has found them starting from a different standpoint, a wider yet more honed transfiguration of the 88-key spectrum within which he breathes. Un Piano not only indicates that one piano is being played on this recording but also that Matthew Shipp is playing it.

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