Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Vortex (Thirsty Ear)




With this latest trio effort by pianist Matthew Shipp, we are led deeper into his dark, lyrical maelstrom. Slight touches of Tristano can be felt as Shipp caresses and brushes the keys in his usually offensive (as opposed to defensive) manner, as in the title piece, where he creates an inviting rather than threatening whirlwind, always on the attack, in his brutal love affair with his instrument. Here we are taken on short, sometimes bumpy rides, as with the Herbie Nichols-esque, off-kilter rollercoastering of "Key Swing."

In "The New Circumstance" the trio shares the weight equally, with fine brush and cymbal work by long-time associate Whit Dickey and incisive bowing and plucking by bassist Joe Morris. Then the tune advances into a brisk, waltz-like dirge, a signature in Shipp's comping, followed by fine paced solos by Morris and Dickey. This piece, having a very definite new form of construction, ends with a short Morris solo that leads into the fierce "Nooks and Corners" which explosively explores every nook and cranny of the keyboard's capabilities and language.

"Sliding through Space" is a slow-starting, balladic piece that ends up being frighteningly disorienting, as the trio pounds away at our psyches and emotions, until in typical Shipp fashion we are brought safely back to our dreams. On the track "Quivering with Speed," which as the title suggests builds momentum as it goes along, we find Shipp quoting "Giant Steps" in the midst of the furor. From there he just climbs and climbs -- advances -- and takes new ground, then suddenly simply stops, leaving us hanging, jaws dropped, in mid-flight. The final two tracks give us more of this relentless search for a new musicality embedded in the oldest of traditions.

Shipp presents us with an extremely listenable CD, while managing to transport us to the outer limits of music. One feels a slight discomfort while being drawn in to this oddly relaxing vortex. This music will surely vitalize you. - Steve Dalachinsky