Thursday, July 16, 2015

July Short Takes - Trio Version

In the past 2 decades, there have been few pianists as busy and prolific as Matthew Shipp.  The quality of his work is without question as he continues to explore the multi-faceted world of creative music.  His Trio for the better part of the past 10 years has consisted of bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey. Not only does this rhythm section follow its leader but it also support and inspires his vision.

Earlier in 2015, the Matthew Shipp Trio issued "To Duke" (Rogue Art), a collection of 11 tracks, 6 of which were composed by  Edward Kennedy Ellington by himself and in collaboration with Billy Strayhorn or Barney Bigard. Shipp composed the remaining 5 tracks. Overall, the recording may remind some listeners of the 1962 Ellington - Max Roach - Charles Mingus recording "Money Jungle" in that the high-powered rhythm section really pushes the pianists to higher levels of intensity.  In the case of Shipp, he has no problem being pushed or pushing back.  His composition "Sparks" is high-energy all the way as is the raucous reading of "Take The A Train", a piece that, at times, sounds like trains moving out of Grand Central Station.  The powerful give-and-take of the rhythm section drives "Satin Doll", pushing Shipp to deconstruct the melody and build his solo off the rhythm (there are several moments in the piano solo where the band locks into a groove that resembles Terry Riley's "In C"). "Mood Indigo" starts slowly, the recognizable melody rising over the elemental brush work of Dickey and the counterpoint of Bisio. The pianist caresses the melody and one can hear the influence of James P Johnson on the composers (Ellington and Bigard). Another Ellington piece from the early 1930s, "Solitude", is deconstructed by the Trio but Shipp never loses sight of the melody. Pay attention to Bisio's bass lines; his "free" association creates a tension that is never really released.

"To Duke" is exhilarating, frenzied and fearless music that might shock Ellington purists but more than satisfy listeners who enjoy the journeys of the Matthew Shipp Trio.  The music is played with the combination of a healthy respect for Duke Ellington and an equally healthy desire to interpret the music in the Trio's own particular free-wheeling style.

For more information, go to

On "De Profundis" (Envoi Recordings), Andrew Bishop plays flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, composed all 11 tracks and much of the music was inspired by the works of Joaquin Des Prez (1440? - 1521).  There are 6 pieces that carry the subtitle of "De Profundis" (from the depths) and those are based on particular works of Des Prez - the other 5 tracks go in fascinating directions.  Throughout the program, Bishop works with his long-time trio of Gerald Cleaver (drums) and Tim Flood (bass) with whom he has relationship built on mutual trust and creativity. The reed player also works with both men in their ensembles.

"Falling Up" features a rousing tenor sax melody reminiscent of Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton's work with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul  on the bassist's brilliant "Conference of the Birds".The push-pull of the bass and drums with the tenor is delightful and rousing.  Later in the program, "Six Days, 5 Nights", a lovely ballad featuring Bishop on flute makes another connection with Sam Rivers as well as with Henry Threadgill in Air. Aficionados of the music of Messrs. Rivers and Threadgill will enjoy the conversational quality of "Now What?" and  be mesmerized by the funky backbeat plus impressionistic soprano saxophone work on "There Are Many Monkeys."

Bishop plays each one of his instruments with strength and clarity.  The buoyant bass clarinet slides around the propulsive rhythm section on "Bottled" and then roars and squawks on "From the Depths". The flute twitters and floats around the bowed bass and quiet percussion on "Fleeting Light" - note how the high notes of the bowed bass move in and out of the higher flute lines.  The simple beauty of "Benedictus", the ballad that closes the program (and also is the only piece that utilizes a melody from Dez Pres - it's from his "Missa Pange Lingua") features the bass clarinet and bass as the 2 melody "voices".

"De Profundis" is thoughtful music that also has power and, if you can pardon the pun, depths worth exploring. Andrew Bishop, Gerald Cleaver, and Tim Flood work and play so well together, one is easily seduced by their performances.  Freedom and foundation, inspiration and vision, you'll find all that and more in this excellent recording.

For more information, go to

Enjoy this cut from the album:

No comments:

Post a Comment