Matthew Shipp — Harmony and Abyss
(Thirsty Ear THI57152.2, 2004, CD)
by Jeff Melton, Published 2005-03-01Pianist Mathew Shipp is still gradually pushing himself into the use of electronic instruments in his jazz endeavors. By embracing dance and hip hop rhythms he has become one of the latest acoustic pianists to branch out electronically until he had become satisfied that he had something substantial to say. Harmony and Abyss is the man’s seventh CD in five years and it finds him in evaluation and refinement mode. Flam has now become an essential element to his recordings adding much flavor to the jazz sound map besides essential rhythms. William Parker has been Shipp’s co-pilot as his upright bass provides a compass to steer by as on “Galaxy 105.” Pieces such as “3 in 1” show a balance to acoustic piano grounded tracks supported by Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver. “String Theory” is a key experimental track with Shipp’s distant watery piano entering the musical foreground with electronic smears and cuts encircling the backwards looping melody line. “Invisible Light” is one of the few free moments on the disk as Shipp and Parker walk an estimable fine line between conversation and telepathy. Alternately, “Amino Acid” relies on a samba rhythmic thrust to drive a penetrating theme. Closing out the recording is an electronic ballad that wallows in a morass of synthesizer despair. Taken as a whole Shipp has come to a crossroads where he has found a method on each path that works entirely for himself.
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