February 24, 2024

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CD review: Matthew Shipp – The Intrinsic Nature Of Shipp – 2023: Video, CD cover

Both album of the week and track of the week this week by complete coincidence land in the avant-garde domain. But neither album of the week Kairos nor track of the week ‘The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp’ belong to a one size fits all dimension.

Take the true original, who has contributed a great deal to modernistic developments in improvised music for decades, pianist Matthew Shipp new in track of the week with the title track of September release The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp.

Anyone who knows the uncompromising work of the American’s will realise that he is a one-off. It’s the tenderness that attracted us here, and for such a modernist there is too in Shipp the grandeur of a lost Ellingtonia, an unwritten parallel text accommodating a world since Ellington left us that needs expression.

Massively prolific – in recent years Codebreaker and Signature appealed to us most, recently a fierce intensity underpins the raw passion of We Speak (Relative Pitch) a fine new duo album with the alto saxophonist-clarinettist Frode Gjerstad – this upcoming album by contrast issued by another US label Mahakala Music is a solo piano affair comprised of 10 improvisations.

Shipp says: “I believe a pianist’s intrinsic nature comes out in the solo idiom”. Who’s to disagree? So far this track proves a formidable introduction to the full record, a track we have had on repeat play for days.

The way Shipp packs clusters of notes into cell-like structures to embellish his melody lines keeps you guessing as you try to discern what the sound of the resolution of each phrase is likely to be. Shipp constantly comes up, within the space of this introductory track in not much more than five-and-a-half minutes, with conclusions to phrases that are both satisfying but also indicate that the story he is so adept at telling is never complete nor easily shaped into one short piece.

As ever given his maximalist vision Shipp seems to contradict the saying that ”you can’t put a quart into a pint pot.”

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