Matthew Shipp and Michael Bisio – Live In Seattle (2016)

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This past Saturday (April 30) was International Jazz Day. Matthew Shipp and Michael Bisio celebrated last year’s International Jazz Day with an inspired performance at Seattle’s The Church. Live In Seattle is something like a Matthew Shipp solo piano performance extended to lower timbres because the pianist Shipp and bassist Bisio are of such a singular mind, a symmetry undoubtedly from many years together within the Matthew Shipp Trio since 2009 and several other side projects such as The Matthew Shipp Chamber Ensemble. Though the originals played that day are all Shipp’s, Bisio takes on an active role as Shipp’s sparring partner, counterpoint and symbiotic ally. It’s an equal partnership that succeeds on savvy as much as it does with dexterity.

Bisio’s impressionistic footprint becomes quite evident just a few seconds into the opening piece “Regeneration” and a few seconds is all he needs to map out a fully strategy to Shipp’s patterns. As the song progresses, Shipp gets less predictable in his maneuvering, as if to try to throw Bisio off his tail and Bisio instead shadows him ever closer. Transitioning into “Gamma Ray” without any break in stride, Bisio is spinning his own lateral thread and when Shipp suggests swing, Bisio promptly dives headlong into the reverie. The two roam through many diversion involving changes in tempo, intensity and feel, including a treacherous passage that delighted the crowd when they made it to the other side together intact. “Psychic Counterpart” (from Elastic Aspects) testifies to Shipp’s knack for establishing such sharply definable harmonic shapes within the realm of free jazz, setting the stage with a Monk-like figure from which he goes in all directions. Bisio’s steady pulse keeps the proceedings well-grounded in the meantime.

The covers demand special attention due to their uncommon approach to them they reveals way more about themselves than the old melodies they’re undertaking. Shipp drops quips from “My Funny Valentine” that identifies the song, if barely so, but Bisio’s bowed bass lends a caustic mood that Shipp builds upon with darker chords foreign to a strict reading of the song. Bisio puts away the bow to take it even further out into abstraction in his protracted solo performance full of character and guile. Shipp brings his sensitive reading of the Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway hit “Where Is The Love” that was a high point on his 2014 solo piano release I’ve Been To Many Places. Bisio is again playing arco after a while to match the elegant flow Shipp applies to the pretty harmony, and a moment of tension makes the return to the prettiness of the melody all the prettier when the two return to it. Shipp’s whimsical handling of “Green Dolphin Street” is matched by Bisio’s catlike moves.

Live In Seattle is available on vinyl through Arena Music Promotion and digitally via iTunes.


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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