Matthew Shipp Trio – Elastic Aspects (2012)

Share this:

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Matthew Shipp has earned his reputation as an out-jazz piano player who offers the clearest alternative yet to the propulsive cacophony of Cecil Taylor. Contemplative as much as impulsive, his approach is close to what I’d imagine Brad Mehldau would sound like if he one day decided to become a whack jazzer, and informed with chamber music sensibility. His improvisations are conundrums that often are left unresolved as he moves on to the next riddle. Though Shipp has worked in a variety of settings that changes from album to album, I think he’s at his best when he sits down in front of piano with no accompaniment and just lets his spontaneous thoughts flow down from his brain through his fingers, as he did so brilliantly on 4D a couple of years ago, or with a sympathetic trio that understands how to react to that style.

4D was followed up by his comprehensive Art Of The Improviser (2011) where he presented both the solo piano and trio sides in separate live performances, and a very notable duo set with Darius Jones. Now comes a full return to the trio format with Elastic Aspects, bringing back bassist Michael Bisio and long time drummer Whit Dickey from the Improviser chronicle for a studio collection of thirteen Shipp originals.

Anyone who is familiar at all with Matthew Shipp knows he turns the whole piano trio concept upside down. Unlike large majority of such trios that follows the tightly integrated template established by Evans, LaFaro and Motian, Shipp’s trio ignores conventions and make up their own as they go along. They don’t swing, and they don’t aspire to make a tightly integrated sound, although they are quite capable of it when the song calls for it, as on “Elastic Aspects.” Overall, Elastic takes more chances than Improviser. More so than on that earlier record, they prefer instead to create friction rather than unity, and it’s from this subversion that the art of the…ahem…improvisers is often found. “Explosive Aspects” makes plenty of sparks from this strategy: Bisio is busily buzzing and rumbling under Shipp’s stop-start poundings, and Dickey stays mostly on snare and hit-hat because Shipp is already being percussive with low tones. “Stage 10” follows a more normal pacing but Shipp’s child-like wonderment approach is taken farther then most dare to go, exploring new tonalities out of on old instrument.

Most of the time, Shipp plays as if he is solo again…a welcome trait for those who like his solo style like me. Even so, he goes solo on some of the tracks anyway, like “Aspects,” “Frame Focus” and “Dimension,” while the rhythm section is so lighted-footed on “Mute Voice,” it feels like solo piano. But Shipp turns the tables on himself by having Bisio and Dickey have a go at it without Shipp and they exploit every opportunity: “Alternative Aspects,” which even opens the album with Bisio’s brooding bow set against Dickey’s remote shadings. More interesting is Bisio again on bowed bass for “Flow Chart” playing with more abandon. The scraped bass returns alone for “Rainforest,” a fluid and impressive performance.

With Elastic Aspects, Matthew Shipp now has more than two decades making records, and after all these years still manages to not only challenge listeners but himself and his band mates in fresh new ways.

Elastic Aspects debuts February 28 on Thirsty Ear Recordings.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B006UFHDCM” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B004GHYCHA” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B002ZXMZLW” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B004NHRG2G” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00007L7LX” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B000056NKL” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00005UWLE” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B00004SGX8″ /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B004XYABQW” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”B005GS3C2O” /]

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
Share this:
Close