Ivo Perelman / Matthew Shipp - Oneness

Label: Leo Records, 2018

Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano.


The telepathic articulation between tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp, two free spirits in the art of music-making, is quite obvious and grows stronger on Oneness, a triple album with 33 improvised tracks, which all together, offer more than two hours of searching music. In this sonic adventure, the interactions never feel a debate, but rather a well-reasoned conversation. The nature of the pieces often become visual, stimulating our imagination for mysterious interplanetary routes or energizing earthy expressions defined by an organic blend of avant-garde jazz, art-folk elements, and contemporary classical incursions.

The duo always finds new ways to surprise, reinventing lines and textures through spontaneous ideas. They not only have a staggering control of their instruments but also find an easy comfort with each other's craft and forms of expression.

The first tune of CD1 suggests an odd tango-ish mood until falling into a free ramble, in which Perelman’s sinuous moves exalted by deep-toned notes with a rich vibrato. In a variety of atmospheres along the way, the cohesion of the duo is felt through free-form approaches and effortless suppression of time while shaping, sometimes angular, sometimes curved geometric figures with an inner pulse of creativity. The timbral range is also a crucial factor in their aesthetic reality, with Shipp’s off-center chordal adventurism, always intricate and stunning, becoming a great vehicle for Perelman’s elliptical threads and asymmetrical zigzags. Ambiguity is also brought into their subliminal interplay, no matter which direction they decide to take - it may be tranquil, lyric and dreamlike but also tense, restless and provocative.

The extemporizations sometimes hinge on an initial idea or just flow briskly with refractory intervallic leaps and opportune chromaticism. No hesitation. No redundancy. No preconception. Pure exploration and inspiration.

The album reflects what these longtime collaborators and wonderful musicians can do. One saxophone, one piano, and oneness of mind and purpose are everything they need.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 (CD1) - Track 1 ► 11 (CD1) - Track 11 ►  06 (CD2) - Track 6

Matthew Shipp - Zero

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.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Zero ► 02 - Abyss Before Zero ► 08 - Blue Equation 

Matthew Shipp Quartet - Sonic Fiction

Label: ESP-Disk, 2018

Personnel - Matthew Shipp: piano; Mat Walerian: reeds; Michael Bisio: bass; Whit Dickey: drums.


Pianist Matthew Shipp, whose original voice constantly surprises and hypnotizes, returns in full force, spearheading a creative quartet with Polish multi-instrumentalist Mat Walerian, bassist Michael Bisio, and drummer Whit Dickey. 

The follow up to the marvelous trio session Piano Song (Thirsty Ear, 2016) was released on the ESP-Disk label with the title Sonic Fiction and comprises ten tracks that explore mood through different sonic possibilities.

The quartet opens with “First Step”, where plaintive yet tense piano voicings, solemnly bowed bass, rambling saxophone lines, and whimsical cymbal impacts converge within an intimate, dramatic, and often mysterious musical setting.

The drum-less “Blues Addiction” shows the musicians’ respect for the blues genre and the enormous talent to bring it in spontaneously with a unique, visionary approach. Unaccompanied, Shipp starts by introducing sinuous bluesy lines supported by incisive bass notes inflicted with the left-hand, but his enveloping sound is suddenly muted to give place to an elastic duet of round bass plucks and velvety clarinet lines.
The Station”, the first of a couple of solo pieces, is intended for Walerian’s bass clarinet, gaining avant-garde connotations through the use of ruminative jargon, long multi-pitched wails, occasional motifs, and other sonic splotches.

Before “Easy Flow” has been cooked up with an uncompromising solo piano, the full quartet delivers consecutive “Lines of Energy”, which may comfort or disquiet you. Expect striking action-reaction between Shipp and Walerian.

The powerful avant-jazz of “The Problem of Jazz”, suppressing the piano,  works through a brisk swinging groove laid down by Bisio, which is periodically overcome by saxophone attacks tied to irruptions of energetic drumming.

The last three tracks immediately caught my attention. On the playful “3 by 4”, abundant rhythmic ideas packed with crisp accents and no apparent regard to form are constantly thrown in. A small part of its throttling energy is extended to “Cell in the Brain”, a piece that emphasizes tonal qualities more than melodic statements. Despite the predominant tranquility, the increase/release of tension is constantly fed by Whitey’s mallet activity.

The title track is the recording’s longest piece and one of the most ravishing as it ends the session with multiple intricacies, oblique moves, and extra angularity in the texture. Embracing a groovy atmosphere, it nearly enters free-bop zones with Walerian’s alto sax digressions on top of Shipp’s cluster-infused comping and jabbing left-hand detonations. It's pretty evocative of Cecil Taylor's early work.
With Bisio and Dickey assuring a firm foundation, Shipp and Walerian ascend the stairway to the stars, putting their eminent rapport at the service of another impressive release.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:  
08 - 3 by 4 ► 09 - Cell in the Brain ► 10 – Sonic Fiction

Ivo Perelman - The Art of Perelman-Shipp

Label/Year: Leo Records, 2017

Lineup - Ivo Perelman: saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass; Michael Bisio: bass; Whit Dickey: drums; Bobby Kapp: drums; Andrew Cyrille: drums.

I don’t know any musician as much prolific as the Brazilian saxophonist Ivo Perelman. In the course of the last three years, he has released 24 albums with formations that keep changing according to a well-defined set of habitual collaborators. Namely pianists Matthew Shipp and Karl Berger, bassists William Parker and Michael Bisio, guitarist/bassist Joe Morris, violist Mat Maneri, and drummers Whit Dickey and Gerald Cleaver. Among them, one may say that Shipp, a top-notch avant-garde pianist of limitless ambidexterity, is his musical soulmate, and nothing better to celebrate that kinship than seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp.
Not all the musicians cited above contributed to the sessions, which were recorded between August 2015 and November 2016, but the duo added two drummers whose presences are not so recurrent: the heavyweight Andrew Cyrille and the undisclosed Bobby Kapp.

Each volume got the name of a moon of Saturn except for the sixth, a pure Perelman-Shipp duet, which was identified as the planet Saturn itself, the core in which everything comes into being, develops, and returns.

On Volume 1: Titan, the duo invites the sturdy bassist William Parker to join their creative arena, and creativity is something he doesn’t lack. The trio starts by walking on flat ground with Perelman almost whispering hushed murmurs, but after a short period, there’s a deflection into rugged territories, where his saxophone timbre switches from bright to dark. Both Shipp and Parker follow him by equally plunging into a mystery, hardening the ecstatic axis while stirring dynamics around it.

I found Tarvos, the second volume, slightly more pugnacious than the first. You may think of David S.Ware’s prayers interweaving with Albert Ayler’s eventful strolls, ending in purgative agitation and overwhelming fire. However, on “Part 6”, the introspection takes over, and I was able to spot a few scrupulous melodies delineated with lots of motifs and outcries encircling them.

Volume 3: Pandora, featuring a quartet with William Parker and Whit Dickey, has a strange appeal and exhibits impertinent postures in cleaner environments. As usual, the band plays with the mutability of tones, timbres, and moods, but in a more controlled, lyrical way. Shipp’s influences of classical music are quite noticeable here as he transforms creative ideas into wholehearted dances.

Michael Bisio, who draws a superb round sound from his bass, plays on the next two volumes Hyperion and Rhea. The latter also features Dickey in the drummer’s chair, and his percussive chops inject some more robustness. “Part 6” was particularly entrancing with inspired blows by Perelman, sometimes carrying some folk in the melody, and striking sonic gusts that made my feet come out of the ground. The adventures are quite elliptical, full of sweeps, contortions, and stretches.

The literal art of the duo can be enjoyed on Volume 6: Saturn, which comprises ten short pieces. “Part 9” is a highlight that brings beseeching melodic contours and highly percussive piano.

The great Andrew Cyrille joins for Volume 7: Dione, soloing upfront in the opening tune. The hosts adhere to the visitor’s suggestions in a triumphant point of entry and embrace an agitated asymmetry that drifts volubility from then on. The trio is on the same page and there are plenty of ravishing moments to be discovered.

Every different lineup offers different possibilities within the same line of approach and the seven volumes form a valid and meritorious body of work. My advice is: for a better absorption, don't listen to the seven volumes in a row. Doing so, you'll dig more precious details in the cathartic creativity of Perelman-Shipp.

        Grade  B+

        Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
03 (Vol 1) – Part 3 ► 09 (Vol 6)  – Part 9 ► 01 (Vol 7) - Part 1

Dickey, Maneri, Shipp - Vessel in Orbit

Label/Year: AUM Fidelity, 2017

Lineup – Whit Dickey: drums; Mat Maneri: viola; Matthew Shipp: piano. 


Vessel in Orbit is a musical narrative of a fictional spatial voyage piloted by a trio of talented musicians and longtime associates. I'm talking about the quick-tempered drummer Whit Dickey, conceptualist violist Mat Maneri, and groundbreaking pianist Matthew Shipp.

Together, and furnished with the appropriate palettes, they illustrate this cosmic adventure that starts with the characterization of their “Spaceship 9”. There’s an imminent sense of danger brought by an insistent chord, an unambiguous rhythmic provocation by Shipp, who inspires Maneri for a few virtuosic and full-blooded runs that initially sound like a horn. The percussive currents emitted by Dickey sometimes gain the form of an imperial march. Despite some textural iteration and occasional mitigation in the intensity, the tune vibrates with movement.

The crew stops the engines for a “Space Walk”, which is done at an irregular pace as a result of freedom. They describe the dark and bright sides of the mysterious planet they’re stationed.
Forcing them into a huge vortex of tension, “Dark Matter” brings a jittery effervescence that will lead them to “Galaxy 9”, a quiescent cogitation, later turned into vehement imploration conducted by Maneri’s dramatic phrasing.

While passing a risky zone of “Turbulence”, they experience oscillating moves regulated by Dickey’s technique and loaded with contrapuntal dissertations from his peers, whose paths occasionally cross.

The impact was so strong that a fourth member of the crew didn’t resist and succumbed. That's the reason why lugubrious tones embrace “To a Lost Comrade”, conveying despair and consternation. Here, it's Dickey who tries to pull his mates out of the lethargy.

Space Strut” shows us Shipp bolstering and propelling the spaceship with left and right-hand attacks, forming beautiful atmospheric textures of wide tonal range.
Already in another dimension, “Hyperspatial” comprehends contemplative reflections and euphoric exaltations punctuated by stratospheric noisy blasts.

If you want to step out of this world for a while, grab this record, which was passionately devised by an experienced trio of galaxy explorers, and let the portions of madness and lucidity invade your own space.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Spaceship 9 ► 04 – Galaxy 9 ► 07 – Space Strut