May 22, 2024

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CD review: Matthew Shipp, Chad Fowler – Old Stories 2022: Video, CD cover

Arkansas-based saxophonist Chad Fowler and the stalwart avant pianist Matthew Shipp, a key figure of the New York’s downtown scene, are two creative spirits who gathered recently to record their first duo record.

The format is challenging for several reasons, but Old Stories, which unfolds in 14 chapters, puts on display an interesting chemistry between the twosome.

Skewed, wailing saxophone lines and well-measured piano textures immediately cook a stew of poignancy, fervor, lyricism and, occasionally, delirium on “Chapter I”. Employing Southern brushstrokes over a dimensional jazz canvas, “Chapter VII” and “Chapter VIII” (the only piece in which Fowler plays the saxello) diverge from the lucid call-and-response methodology of “Chapter II”, which extracts a certain dancing quality from the playfulness adopted. More reflective in nature, “Chapter III” is fueled by a sequence of staccato strokes near the end, whereas “Chapter IV” is an avant-blues led to nearly psychosis.

Fowler blows the saxophone with a constantly fervent expression that favors dramatic higher tones. It sounds great and is suitable for a period of time. Yet, I felt that most of the cuts ended up in the same alleys, making the listening a bit predictable. In my perception, eight to nine tracks would have been ideal. Also, instead of following an almost uninterrupted interplay (nonetheless taken to good places in “Chapter XIII” through highly motivic sequences), the disc would have benefitted greatly with some more room for solo piano and solo saxophone sections.

That being said, one can still find great joy in pieces such as “Chapter VI”, which rocks and swings with the duo in close communication, and “Chapter X”, where the atmosphere of the straighter extremities is disrupted by the ferocious, warped shoutouts of the middle section. Old Stories may be an experimentation in need of different heartbeats, but audacity within the narrative construction remains a fact.

Tracks

1. Chapter I 6:14
2. Chapter II 4:28
3. Chapter III 4:43
4. Chapter IV 3:52
5. Chapter V 6:36
6. Chapter VI 6:20
7. Chapter VII 9:46
8. Chapter VIII 7:35
9. Chapter IX 6:35
10. Chapter X 5:14
11. Chapter XI 4:20
12. Chapter XII 6:51
13. Chapter XIII 5:17
14. Chapter XIV 3:18

Matthew Shipp – piano
Chad Fowler – stritch, saxello

Matthew Shipp, Chad Fowler - Old Stories - Amazon.com Music

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