May 18, 2024

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CD review: Matthew Shipp – Codebreaker 2021: Video, CD cover

Codebreaker is an excellent title for a Matthew Shipp album. When Shipp plays the piano, it sounds like he’s trying to solve a puzzle that only he, and maybe the ghost of Cecil Taylor, would understand.

That is especially the case for his solo recordings, where he is free to go anywhere his mind takes him. Without his trio or any given accompanist, Shipp can and has bent jazz standards to his will through the power of improvisation.

When he improvises, his abilities as a pianist, though very high, feel like a secondary priority—letting the music go where it will is the name of the game. Like Keith Jarrett on Radiance, Shipp feels that any shape or meaning injected into Codebreaker was done by accident. “I was actually shocked at how introspective the album was when I listened back to it,” he says in the press release. Of course, introspection is not a one-size-fits-all mindset for musicians, and Shipp’s idea of introspection still involves a great deal of musical trickery.

The title track gets the album rolling in a decidedly non-flashy manner, favoring thick harmonies layed out in moderately paced chords. Things get thicker still as Shipp’s right hand takes more liberties while damping the chords with his foot. “Spiderweb”, another great title for a Shipp composition, applies some verve to where “Codebreaker” left off before it. Here, Shipp channels his inner-Bud Powell as his fingers dance around the keys in a way that’s just inside the borders of tonality.


1. Codebreaker 4:40
2. Spiderweb 5:12
3. Disc 3:43
4. Code Swing 4:47
5. Letter From the Galaxy 4:56
6. Green Man 3:40
7. Raygun 4:02
8. Suspended 2:19
9. Mystic Motion 3:49
10. Stomp To the Galaxy 3:45
11. The Tunnel 3:27

Matthew Shipp – piano

Codebreaker | Matthew Shipp | TAO Forms


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