His new recording, "Infinite Distances" (Cellar Live), takes its inspiration from a quote by Rainier Maria Rilke and also from the late Kenny Kirkland's relationship with saxophonist Branford Marsalis. The Rilke quote - read it here - speaks of relationships and that one cannot really know the heart of another person. For Haidu, he views this music, and the six-part "Infinite Distances" suite, as "a musical reflection on relationships, loss, and self-realization."
The album opens with "The Subversive", a barn-burner of a piece with Brendler and Ferber laying down a torrid pace while the leader and Irabagon create blazing solos. The latter has really come into his own on soprano sax and this solo absolutely soars. The "Suite" is next; initially, one notices the strong melodic element throughout and how Haidu mixes the voices of Ms. Cassity's alto and the soprano sax, especially on the first two parts and the final section. The intelligent work of Brendler (one of the most melodic of contemporary bassists) and Ferber (splendid cymbal work) set off the piano solo and the raucous tenor solo. Parts 3 - 5 include the lovely ballad "Hanaya" (Pelt's flugelhorn really helps to fill out the melody and harmony parts), "This Great Darkness" (with Irabagon's tenor lines pushing through the fiery rhythms), and "Can We Talk", which moves slowly and has a pretty melody for Ms. Cassity's alto. The piano solo is opens up in a delicate fashion but soon picks up power. The final section, "Guardian of Solitude", is another powerful piece, with a rousing piano solo and a fascinating slowdown in the middle that leads into the alto solo. Listen to how the intensity ratchets up on the strength of the piano chords and driving rhythm section.
For more information, go to www.noahhaidu.com.
Here's the title track:
The new album features his Trio - bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker - a comfortable yet challenging rhythm section that finds its way through Shipp's compositions by not playing it safe but with a sense of inquisitiveness. It would be easy to write that this is one of the pianist's most reflective collection with songs such as "Silence Of" and "Void of Sea" with plenty of breathing room as well as the several piano solos - the opening track, "Links", is short (1:48) yet reminds the listener how Shipp can create a song that sounds like poetry. If you listen closely to the Trio performances, you hear how the composer makes these pieces conversations and not solo after solo. Bassist Bisio, who possesses a big tone and a melodic heart, is not only supportive but also creates intelligent counterpoint. Listen to "Cosmopolitan", with its bass line suggestive of Miles Davis's "So What", and pay attention to the fact that rhythm section is an equal. There's a tinge of funk in Baker's drums at the opening of "Flying Carpet" yet the piece goes in an unexpected direction. The blend of powerful chords and forceful playing gives way to softer approaches before picking up steam again.
Don't look at or listen to "Piano Song" as a definitive "farewell speech" but as part of Matthew Shipp's impressive timeline. Go back to his earlier recordings, the duos with saxophonist Rob Brown or his work with guitarist/bassist Joe Morris, the David S. Ware Quartet albums as well as his creative work with Thirsty Ear's "Blue Series" - Mr. Shipp is continually searching, always maturing as a musician and composer. Don't begrudge him his time away; go and catch up on the amazing sounds he has given us to this point.
For more information, go to www.matthewshipp.com.