Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Feb. 1, 2002
Matthew ShippNu Bop (Thirsty Ear) As someone who recently declared he was going to stop recording altogether, pianist Matthew Shipp has been quite a prolific fellow. As the curator of Thirsty Ears' refreshingly adventurous Blue Series, he's overseen a slew of projects that meld avant-garde sensibilities into traditional forms in new and exciting ways. This is Shipp's third release for the NYC indie, and although considerably different from his two previous ventures, his relentless pursuit of innovative expression is the constant. Not completely subjugated is the spirit of Shipp's early work, which mirrored the thunderous abandon of Cecil Taylor, though at its core, Nu Bop hovers surprisingly close to the light-fingered earthiness of its conductor's initial piano influence and soul jazz precursor, Ahmad Jamal. Only here, the funkified grooves laid down by omnipresent bassist William Parker, drummer Guillermo E. Brown, and scratch 'n' sample meister Chris Flam come straight outta hip-hop culture. Nu bop titles like "Space Shipp" and "Rocket Shipp" recall ultra-hip bebop tunes from the Forties, such as "Dizzy Atmosphere," "Dextivity," and "Chasin' the Bird," which honored that era's avant-gardists, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, and Charlie Parker, respectively. Just as their bebop forefathers put radical, modernist ideas to more traditional swing concepts, so, too, do Shipp and his compadres bring their expansive vision to the fore with inspired results. It all makes for a highly accessible yet satisfyingly edgy sound, one that's both now ... and then.