Matthew Shipp – Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zürich (2017)

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The essence of Matthew Shipp is captured at the end of a seven day European tour covering six countries. Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zurich (hatOLOGY Records) finds a masterful pianist finishing up his string of gigs in the spring of 2016 smack in the middle of the continent, at the Taktlos music festival in the capital of Switzerland.

Taktlos is the latest of many solo piano records Shipp has made, but the first one recorded in front of a live audience in some time. Through a continuous flow of ten improvisations and a single standard, he’s opened up a window wide open into his inner self.

Shipp is nothing if not contemplative, emotional and calculating (in a good way), but those qualities are amplified when he goes it alone. Suggesting both classical and jazz forms but consciously dwelling on neither, Shipp lets it flow like a stream of consciousness marked by block chords, lovely arpeggios, stacked arrangements and the occasional exclamatory moments. A lot of these facets are already touched on just getting warmed up on “”Light Beam” and “Intro Z” en route to “Instinctive Touch,” which begins with a definable theme and just saunters along from there, occasionally firing off a rapid succession of nervous notes and eventually ending up where it started.

“Pocket” builds density for an inevitable downpour, making way for a moment of beauty that begins “Gamma Ray.” Following the episodic, pointed “Piece Within Piece” comes the only cover, “Tenderly,” whereby Shipp cleverly states the melody with one hand while simultaneously devising a darker, countering melody with the other, occasionally breaking free from the constraints of the pattern entirely.

Through the remainder of the program, Shipp keeps probing moods, tempos and directions but always maintains his dynamism on a linear plane. It becomes clear on solo live performances such as the one captured on Invisible Touch At Taktlos Zürich that the more Matthew Shipp is exposed, the more fascinating is his music.

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