Matthew Shipp - The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp

The Free Jazz Collective 0

By Gary Chapin

From reviewing an essential Matthew Shipp Trio recording of the 1990s (Circular Temple), I now consider The Intrinsic Nature of Matthew Shipp, which—sorry, I can’t help myself—will be considered essential also, before too long.

It’s intrinsic in a number of ways. All of Shipp’s defining “moves” are here. His penchant for the middle register, his way of putting repetition and substantive anarchy in juxtaposition to one another, his breathtaking—and I mean that literally, sometimes my breath interrupts when he does this—use of the sustain pedal. Also, on display is Shipp’s seemingly unlimited melodic creative gift.

The album is minimal not only because it is Shipp playing solo, but because he seems to be playing in an intentionally pared down mode. Both the right and left hand spin melody lines telling some startling stories, and there is less of (though there are some) the sort of clustery abandon that Shipp can be so good at. Clusters sometimes occur over time, though, like a melody played over a long sustain, becomes a harmony. Shipp’s control of the vertical and the horizontal is out of this world.

It’s a quieter album than some of Shipp’s, but only in density and dynamic, the ideas draw as much attention to themselves as any sonic boom or train wreck might. But the quiet does create a sense of intimacy that’s very seducing. Even when I listen while doing something else—typing this review, for instance—the music often invites me to stare off into space and consider. Wait, I was talking about intimacy. That sounds like introspection. I think maybe the two are essential to each other.

I could be overthinking this. I am prone to reacting strongly to non-musical cues on recordings—titles, images, etc—and there is a track on the album called “The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp,” which, very likely, the recording was felicitously named for. And, honestly, who can say what Shipp was thinking when he named the tune that?

But when you tell me something is “intrinsic”—i.e., belonging naturally or essential—then I’m going to start wondering. Is a solo performance more intrinsic than a trio performance? Do the relationships of the trio make it non-intrinsic? Are our relationships intrinsic to ourselves?

That’s me crossing completely from the line of useful (fingers crossed) critique to me-just-having-a-good-time-writing-about-music.

Whatever the philosophers say, the experience of this album is fantastic and entrancing, and, yes, intimate, in the sense you feel like he’s in conversation directly with you, the listener. (Another relationship!)

The Intrinsic Nature Of Shipp by Matthew Shipp

Wed Sep 20 04:00:00 GMT 2023