May 19, 2024

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CD review: Matthew Shipp – The Piano Equation 2020: Video, CD cover

Further honing a singular cosmic musical language, Matthew Shipp begins celebrating his landmark 60th year with this new solo piano recording. The Piano Equation is also the inaugural release from Tao Forms, a new label founded by drummer-improviser-composer – and longtime Shipp collaborator – Whit Dickey.

Over more than half of his lifespan, Shipp has built up an unparalleled body of work and a wholly original musical language that only becomes more hyper-focused and distinctive with the passage of time. Shipp’s abstract eloquence is on vivid display throughout The Piano Equation, which presents him alone at the piano, brilliantly solving his higher-order musical mathematics, approaching each new unknown from unexpected vantage points as in some form of cubist algebra. Shipp builds his solo music in a cellular fashion, formed like the building blocks of human life out of disparate elements that combine and evolve in novel and fascinating forms. “There are billions of different human beings on the planet, all constituted with the same genetic material but all completely different,” he says. “All of these pieces can be generated with a different mother/father idea and the basic cellular material can unfold in billions of ways.”

Stride, swing and the avant-garde collide like so many elemental particles, the aftereffects radiating outward in increasingly complex and intricate formations. The scientific, the personal, the political and the fantastic co-exist throughout Shipp’s work, melding in the radical vocabulary that the pianist employs on the album, which speaks with its own alien yet familiar logic. Fragments of melody coalesce and transform, dissolve or shatter into kaleidoscopic reveries.

While some may have used the arrival of such a landmark occasion as their 60th anniversary of arrival here to look backwards, Shipp will spend the year continuing to move resolutely forward, further evolving a voice that is as intimately personal as it is cosmically adventurous.

1. Piano Equation (5:15)
2. Swing Note from Deep Space (4:59)
3. Piano in Hyperspace (4:14)
4. Vortex Factor (4:17)
5. Land of the Secrets (3:30)
6. Void Equation (6:00)
7. Tone Pocket (4:42)
8. Clown Pulse (2:07)
9. Radio Signals Equation (7:39)
10. Emission (3:32)
11. Cosmic Juice (4:50)

The Piano Equation | Tao Forms

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