Toxic: Mat Walerian, Matthew Shipp, William Parker – This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (2017)

Share this:

A little more than two years ago, Mat Walerian didn’t have a single album to his name but now the Polish multi-reedist can boast a trio of ambitious, imposing recordings. This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People continues his streak of partnering with Matthew Shipp for his accomplice on piano and sticks with the fabled ESP-Disk record label, too. Walerian also calls up bass chief William Parker for his third project but this time, Parker isn’t writing the liner notes; he’s pulled right into the action.

Making up a lethal trio aptly called Toxic, Walerian, Shipp and Parker convened in a studio as opposed to the concert recordings of The Uppercut and Jungle. This Is Beautiful kills not with kindness or brutality but by the three mentally meeting on some spiritual plane speaking a dialect that only exists in that moment. Shipp and Parker bring a whole lot of jazz history and a long partnership dating back to their time together in David S. Ware’s Quartet to the Toxic mix. As a self-taught musician, Walerian brings something naturally that many avanteers can’t: an innate feel for the direction of a song that comes entirely from within.

Perhaps even more so than the other Walerian records, there doesn’t seem to be any prescribed roles for any of the participants; everyone plays multiple instruments assuming responsibilities that are fluid and based on intuition. That creates a lot of moments where you don’t know what to expect, except that ingenuity will always be involved. “Lesson,” in fact, is instruction on going against expectations: Walerian initiates the proceedings on a flute, accompanied by Parker not on bass but a Japanese shakuhachi flute. The Pole pushes and probes while Shipp and Parker say more with less. Eventually though, the bassist does migrate over to his bass, keeping his circumspect demeanor intact.

A third side of Parker is displayed on the second track: his furious bow launches “The Breakfast Club Day 1” and as he begins to draw out his notes, Walerian’s candied alto saxophone comes into focus. The most interesting part comes when his sax conjures up ghosts of Lester Young and Johnny Hodges while Parker makes short, abrupt saws. Later on, Shipp takes Parker’s spot with long, flowing, linear strings of notes. Parker’s bow scrapes also serve as the forward for “The Breakfast Club Day 2,” which are a little less caustic and a little jauntier this time. Walerian’s alto leads the trio on a sometimes-tumultuous ride, and his one-on-one with Parker exchanging darting notes is a highlight.

After a masterly Parker monologue, Walerian devises pretty, melodic fragments through his clarinet for “This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People” and Shipp responds with thoughtful expressions that blend in easily with Walerian and a bowing Parker. A bass clarinet brushes darker hues on “Peace and Respect” and Shipp’s surprising organ adds cool tones; Parker’s restless bass pushes against otherwise relaxed moods. But the terrain alters when the clarinet is replaced by alto sax and a plucked bass with a bowed bass and at the very end, the organ is dispensed with in favor of piano.

This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People is a set of performances that succeed because the Toxic musicians place all trust on instinct and the instincts of others. Composition is an end result not a means, instrumentation is dynamic not rigid, and music not bound by either becomes the order of the day.


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