Matthew Shipp Quartet, Matthew Shipp Duo with Mat Maneri, and Other Dimensions in Music Special Quintet w/Matthew Shipp

Pastoral Composure, Gravitational Systems, and Time Is of the Essence Is Beyond Time (Thirsty Ear)

Record Reviews

Matthew Shipp Quartet

Pastoral Composure (Thirsty Ear)

Matthew Shipp Duo with Mat Maneri

Gravitational Systems (hatOLOGY)

Other Dimensions in Music Special Quintet w/Matthew Shipp

Time Is of the Essence Is Beyond Time (AUM Fidelity)

A common suspicion of "outside" artists permeates both the art and music world. Are these individuals different because it's all they can be? Throughout history, naysayers have stepped to the fore to label everyone from Thelonious Monk to Ornette Coleman as frauds with no technical abilities. Yet few scale such artistic peaks without strong foundations. Matthew Shipp learned to play his Fender Rhodes keyboard in rock bands, and studying classical music, but it was in David Ware's unrelenting quartet that Shipp's stream-of-consciousness style first began to attain notice. Along with musical soulmate William Parker, Shipp's undulating and constant movement contributed to Ware's intensity; on his own, the results were positively hypnotic. Shipp recorded so much as a leader and sideman during the Nineties (along with Ware's group, he's still a member of Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory, among others) that he announced a self-imposed retirement a few months back. That lasted about as long as Dan Quayle's presidential bid. Pastoral Composure is mostly dark hues, modal moods, and shorter, more-straightforward-than-usual pieces dominated by Roy Campbell's lyrical trumpet. Shipp and Parker contribute their usual synchronicity, yet Campbell, on loan from his group Other Dimensions in Music, nearly steals the show. Shipp appears as a featured soloist on the new ODIM project, a more improvised endeavor that highlights Shipp's sparring with Campbell and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter's explorations. Fascinating and endlessly rewarding, but like the version of "Frere Jacques" on Composure, not for the faint of heart. It's in smaller groups that Shipp's subtleties unfold, which is why he records so much in a duo format. With frequent collaborator Mat Maneri, Shipp crafts a stark and moving tone excursion. Maneri coyly picks, bows, and screeches his violin around Shipp's Cecil Taylor-like explosions, then the two magically reel in for more introspective beauty. Each of these releases is Shipp from a different view. While the ODIM project features his improvisational muscle and Gravitational Systems highlights a sly conversational approach, it's Composure that offers the best overview of this "outside" artist's versatility.

(Gravitational/Beyond Time) ***.5

(Pastoral Composure) ****

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