Jungle: Mat Walerian, Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake – Live at Okuden (2016)

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The second LP from Polish reedman and flautist Mat Walerian is also the second with pianist Matthew Shipp, the second with ESP-Disk Records and the second recorded within the live Okuden Concert Series. But the primary distinction of this second ‘Live at Okuden’ album is the addition of Hamid Drake. Jungle — on sale April 29, 2016 — expands the off-the-cuff musical conference to an elite drummer of improvised music.

Many songs literally run into other so that it flows as if it’s just a few extended pieces instead of thirteen listed, but innately invoked moods that evolve and sometimes abruptly pivot command interest through one hundred minutes of music. Probably Walerian’s greatest attribute is allowing the notes and the phraseology come to him, sizing up each moment and jumping in when the water is just right.

He wrote a pretty melody for “Perfect Joint” that he leaves exposed with Shipp’s sensitive piano, injecting his sax only where it will complete the emotion that’s meant to be rendered. He tactfully straddles the line between and dissonance on a convulsive reading of the traditional tune “One For,” and Drake, ever the close listener, is matching him blow for blow.

Walerian the saxophonist allows a slightly different personality to shine through on flute: on “Shrine,” he’s soothing as he is calculating and contemplative, allowing Shipp to build a shape from nothing, completing the mold by the time “Shrine” becomes “Teleport.” Walerian adjusts to its stepped-up tension accordingly with a switch to clarinet, drawing out notes as Shipp and Drake oscillate underneath. Walerian goes it (nearly) alone on bass clarinet for the intro of “Good Trip Is A Safe Trip,” never failing to swing during his inside/outside soliloquy.

Devising dramatic, sharply definable figures such as the one the makes up “123 Sylvester 230CE,” Walerian reaches back into tradition with his avant sensibilities intact while Drake forages around on his trap kit devising rhythmic schemes like a mad scientist. Drake’s fire and extraordinary percussive attack come to fore for much of the Shipp/Drake improv “Ultimate Insurance.”

The trio’s most ad hoc performance might be the eighteen minute “Coach On Da Mic,” featuring Shipp constantly creating on the fly by himself for the first quarter of the song before the other two ease themselves in. Eventually, Walerian asserts control via a bass clarinet, emitting a series of sweetly soulful notes until Shipp tugs the sentiment into a tumultuous direction, eventually succeeding in leading the group into a series of tension building and release. The floor is then left to Drake, who solos on top of a jungle groove that evokes Africa, the Caribbean and America all in one.

This is also the second album where bassist extraordinaire William Parker has written the liner notes. Within that commentary, Parker notes that a “master musician is not a musician who knows every thing about music, like preordained harmonies, rhythms, or melodies.” Rather, “the informed musician knows enough to let music be music on its own terms.” It’s something that Mat Walerian seems to understand instinctively on Jungle, even as he still manages to show he knows much about the tenants of music and in the presence of more established masters.


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
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