Label: ESP-Disk, 2018
Personnel: Matthew Shipp: solo piano.
The music of American pianist Matthew Shipp, a modernizer who loves to color outside the lines, is widely known for being unpredictable and astonishing. I think this is even more accurate when he plays solo, whether creating angular or elliptical sonic shapes.
Zero, an experimental solo album and a trip to his idiosyncratic musical cosmos, feels at once challenging, majestic, and relatable. This is Shipp's second outing this year on ESP-Disk label, with the simultaneous release of Sonic Fiction, a quartet session.
With an enviable independence of hands, he rapidly entangles us on the title track with an expeditious succession of nimble phrases and a few resonating bass movements to create intervallic riches of tonal complexion. The piece oozes a modern classical lyricism, but also a swinging cadence that is more implicit than explicit. Typical movements from classical are also identified on “Piano Panels” and complemented with exquisite, off-the-hook linear notes to promote abstraction and create pleasantly disorienting effects.
The intersection of expressive melody and wistful harmonic progressions makes the hauntingly beautiful “Abyss Before Zero” to flow in a sheer state of reflection. The experience is breathtaking and includes amazement, contend, resignation, and even sadness.
Both “Zero Skip and a Jump” and “Zero Subtract From Jazz” are rhythmically defiant. The former, a punctilious monologue with brisk staccatos and counterpoint, sounds organic and intriguing, while the latter, displaying traces of folk in the melody, is equally driven by agitation and contemplation. There is a recurrent tension that is occasionally released by resorting to a wider sense of melody.
“Blue Equation”, a blues-based piece linguistically extended across a wide range of the keyboard, explores new possibilities as Shipp incurs into thrilling musical paths. The same happens on the closing number, “After Zero”, whose moods vary, sometimes playfully, sometimes ominously, until land in a sublime final arpeggio.
Personal and stylized, Zero was crafted with raw intensity with Shipp playing at full force.
01 - Zero ► 02 - Abyss Before Zero ► 08 - Blue Equation