Matthew Shipp: The Piano Equation (Tao Forms)
The dictionary defines equation as “the act of making equal.” In his engrossing new solo album, pianist Matthew Shipp creates eleven new pieces of music in which the equality of his powerful hands is important to the venture’s success, but not as important as the fertile imagination that guides his music-making. For the past three decades, Shipp has been a formidable collaborator on recordings with Joe McPhee, Whit Dickey, Marshall Allen, David S. Ware, Michael Bisio and other prominent members of the jazz avant garde. In his new album for a new label, Shipp goes it alone. Collaboration is only between the hands that he long ago disciplined to be independent and mutually supportive.
Tao Forms Records seem not to have issued video of Shipp playing music from his new album, but we located a prime example of his exploration of the chordal and rhythmic possibilities that Jerome Kern embedded in his 1933 classic “Yesterdays.” The Michiko Rehearsal Studios in New York captured the performance last fall.
In his sixtieth year, the former enfant terible of the far-out demonstrates no diminishment of his formidable technique, assimilation of the styles of several jazz eras, or of his often-rambunctious creativity. Which of the notes in Shipp’s “Swing Note from Deep Space” is the one the title refers to? It could be the high b-natural that gives the piece its unexpected ending, or one of the multitude of notes that preceeds it. The songs’ titles, for instance “Radio Signals Equation” and “Cosmic Juice,” may offer clues to the content of the music. But, as always with Shipp, his unreeling of the improvisation is where the stoies lie. This collection of unaccompanied performances portrays Shipp in all of his kaleidoscopic variety.