Matthew Shipp Charges Ahead With Two Rather Different Rhythm Sections


Regardless of what I or Wynton Marsalis might want, we’re going to be hearing more and more collaborations between jazz improvisers and beat doctors. I just hope most turn out to be half as satisfying as Matthew Shipp’s Harmony and Abyss, where (as on the equally fine Equilibrium) the beats are supplied by co-producer FLAM. Especially augmented by a drummer as resourceful as Gerald Cleaver, Shipp’s compositions and attack are so polyrhythmically charged and percussive to begin with that the extra beats just ratchet up the intensity. With FLAM slyly altering the decay of Shipp’s pinging, Morse-code piano, “New ID” is as much about pitch variation as it is about rhythm; it could be something by James Tenney, but with urgency and humor. My other current favorite is “Virgin Complex,” where FLAM’s mechanical whoosh blends handsomely with William Parker’s regal bowing. Heady stuff, though admittedly more conducive to nervous pacing than dancing (more my style anyway). Those who prefer their Shipp straight up will want to search for The Trio Plays Ware, an Italian import featuring David S. Ware’s rhythm section (Shipp, Parker, and drummer Guillermo E. Brown) having a go at his tunes without him. The most immediately appealing of these are “Dinosauria” (bluesy) and “Godspelized” (rollicking), but the one that stays with you the longest is “Doa Forms”—a handful of Asian-sounding scales that elicit from Shipp probing and reflective lines that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Kind of Blue.