Matthew Shipp: piano | Rob Brown: alto saxophone | Joe Morris: double bass | Whit Dickey: drum set
Recorded on January 5th 2006 by Leon Dorsey at Leon Lee Dorsey Studio (New York, Ny, Etats Unis). Mixing: Anthony Ruotolo. Mastering: Jean-Pierre Bouquet. Liner notes: Steve Dalachinsky. Photographs: Lorna Lentini. Producer: Michel Dorbon
Tracklist: 1. Right Hemisphere (3.22) 2. You Rang (4.31) 3. Bubbles (3.33) 4. Ice (3.39) 5. Hyperspace (2.12) 6. Dice (5.14) 7. Incremental (5.45) 8. Falling (5.59) 9. The Sweet Science (1.44) 10. Lava (8.41) 11. Red in Gray (9.06)
the intuitive side of the brain – the god part of brain – the part that processes in wholes not in linear sequences – the part that is out of time and rooted in eternity…
…These pieces are not collective improvisations but are a series of concepts and gestures put forth, discussed and then acted upon musically. — Matthew Shipp, excerpt from the liner notes
The music sounds great
even though there was no advanced planning or rehearsing. It almost sounds as if each of us had been working toward this day for the past decade. Perhaps in some unconscious way we had. But at the same time it was essentially one day in the life of each of us together committed to making cogent music together – music in real time with no inhibiting preconceptions, that addresses who we are in the simplicity and complexity of the moment. — Whit Dickey, excerpt from the liner notes
represents musical partnerships going back 15-20 yrs. The group started with Matt and me playing duo in the early 80’s. This was a very creative period for the development of our music. The first incarnation of R.H. was a trio with drums. When the group became a 4tet, Whit became the drummer and William Parker the bassist. At this time (89-90) Whit, Joe and I started working together…
… For me the group expresses the whole history of where we’ve been, while continuing to look toward the future. — Rob Brown, excerpt from the liner notes
Rob Brown, Whit Dickey, Joe Morris, Matthew Shipp (from left to right) | Photo by Lorna Lentini
Matthew Shipp (piano) and Rob Brown (alto sax)
have played a lot together before, and released some great duo recordings, and Brown, Whit Dickey (drums) and Joe Morris (bass) have performed a lot together too (and recorded at least on all Dickey’s albums), but they never released an album as a quartet. That’s what we get here. The title itself is a paradox of sorts. Shipp explains in the liner notes that the right hemisphere is “the intuitive side of the brain, the god part of the brain, the part that processes in wholes not in linear sequences, the part that is out of time and rooted in eternity”. Now, saying that, and claiming that as the underlying process for the album is very much a left hemisphere thing to do, rooted in the rational, part of the conceptual. Hence the paradox. And the music reflects that paradox. The concept for the 11 tracks are pre-discussed, abstractly without rehearsal, yet the performance results from the musicians’ improvisation on it, interacting and creating the concept together. In most of the tracks, Shipp is one of the most decisive factors in the overall direction of the piece, setting the tone and the atmosphere, yet without taking leadership, easily offering the lead voice to Brown, whose unbelievably strong emotional playing is a pleasure to hear. Shipp is a true master in getting the best out of his band-mates, and not only on this album, even to the extent that he is absent on two tracks.
Rob Brown, Whit Dickey, Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris (from left to right) | Photo by Lorna Lentini
And that works well too : Brown, Morris and Dickey unleash all their skills on “Falling In”, and then you think you’ve heard some strong emotinal playing, until you hear the short piano solo ballad on which Shipp demonstrates his sensitivity. But the quartet goes way beyond pure emotions, creating art for the sake of art, searching novelty and pattern-breaking approaches in order to get this new expressiveness, this new sound. It’s avant-garde in that sense, but with a high emotional component, as can be heard on “Hyperspace”, but especially on “Lava”. The last track “Red In Gray” is an absolute beauty, a mid-tempo improvisation, still agitated, but less nervous, more coherent, more soulful too, than some of the other more abstract tracks on the CD. “Pent-up pensiveness erupting like into volcanic tides of overflowing Lava smothering breathing swinging hot drum solo deep within the core where always this earth is alive slipping ever so gently Red In Gray elegantly reuniting us with the flesh where one barely feels the blood as it flows thru the ashes back into our hearts warming our bones”, that’s how Steve Dalachinsky describes those two tracks, and that’s pretty close to what I thought, yet a little more right hemisphere. — Stef
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)
In the early ’80s, saxophonist Rob Brown and pianist Matthew Shipp played as a duo, eventually forming a quartet with William Parker on bass and Whit Dickey on drums and releasing the CD Points on Silkheart in 1990. Flash-forward to the present, where Joe Morris has taken over the bass chair, and the group has released this altogether excellent, eponymous follow-up.
The eleven songs explore a wide range of moods, including the meditative “Red in Gray,” urgently explosive “Lava,” free-spirited “Falling In” and vaguely ominous “You Rang.” And yet even when the emotions feel familiar, there’s something deliciously elusive about this music; it never settles for easy answers or familiar aural territory. The CD has a disciplined energy throughout, which creates a refreshing understated quality. The musicians are firmly committed to exploring the non-linear and do so through generating judicious dissonance, crafting unexpected shapes, and allowing each other the space to breathe and question.
Poet and jazz aficionado Steve Dalachinsky wrote the liner notes for the CD, and his stream-of- consciousness musings perfectly capture the CD’s quality. He defines the right hemisphere of the brain as “where much of the soul’s dark abstraction lies.” Right Hemisphere delves into this unknown territory, and comes out with music that’s rich and rewarding.
Brotherhood implies common ground whether or not it is within a context of family, ethnic heritage, belief system or creative activity. An automatic unity, not requiring invention, binds the network. An agreement exists, not requiring a contract, to make it mutual. The language is the same though the perspectives might be different from group to group, person to person. Nevertheless, communication can come easily.
Born in the 1980s, Right Hemisphere is this quartet’s self-titled 2008 debut. As is clarified in the liner notes written by three of its members, what is brought to the music is individual growth that applies to the sonic evolution of the whole quartet.
Even though Matthew Shipp engages mid-range evenly planted chords on the piano to initiate the sound, Whit Dickey taps lightly at the snare and cymbal and Joe Morris arranges his climbing mid-range bass pizzicatos according to the piano/drum intro, it is Rob Brown who rallies and cuts through the ambience to sing with his alto saxophone.
Shipp is never far behind on “Right Hemisphere.” He throws tonal weight behind Brown’s higher pitches and split tones and pushes the envelope on the presence of a string component by going inside the piano (“You Rang”). The piano echoes the alto often, if not specifically, with corresponding tonal gestures, then with supportive chords that emphasize the direction in which the alto is going.
Shipp and Brown split off to fulfill their roles as lead instruments. Shipp takes it on “Dice,” which divides the first and latter halves of the recording. His fingers move quickly without fully pressing the keys, the rhythm section behaving in an equally agitated fashion. On a two minute solo spot (“The Sweet Science”), Shipp combines rhythmic melody structuring, its scattering and chordal landings to form the coda.
Brown isolates himself on “Bubbles” singing out un-arpeggiated single notes, reiterated scalar runs and high-pitched clusters in the company of Morris’s arco scrubbing and Dickey’s delicate cymbalizing. “Falling In” exhibits Brown’s strong alto voice—his insistent tempo and persistent tabulation of notes which Morris and Dickey magnify in their responsiveness, either accompanying Brown or on their own.
Morris and Dickey rise to the top on “Lava.” About half-way through the nine minute piece, Morris moves the pizzicato with precision and alacrity through the dampened tonality characterizing his bass strings, as Dickey seizes solo moments with his signature restrained drumming configurations.
The apotheosis of the quartet’s organic interaction is displayed on “Red In Gray,” an aural description of the way sound (or anything, for that matter) can shift. Shifting is about change; and the instrumental give-and-take that happens on this cut is without competition; it happens with a comfortable compliance and significant grace. That is the way good, unforced relationships work, both in the physical universe and on a human scale exemplified by this quartet. This music delivers that poetic, inexorable message.