|Circular Temple (Infinite Zero/American, 1990)|
|Critical Mass (213 CD, 1994)|
|2-Z (Thirsty Ear, 1996)|
|Zo (Thirsty Ear, 1997)|
|Thesis (Hatology, 1997)|
|The Flow of X (Thirsty Ear, 1997)|
|Strata (Hatology, 1997)|
|The Multiplication Table (Hatology, 1998)|
|Gravitational Systems (Hatology, 1998)|
|DNA (Thirsty Ear, 1999)|
|Pastoral Composure (Thirsty Ear, 2000)|
|Matthew Shipp's New Orbit (Thirsty Ear, 2001)|
|Expansion, Power, Release (Hatology, 2001)|
|Nu Bop (Thirsty Ear, 2002)|
|Songs (Splasch, 2002)|
|Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear, 2003)|
|Antipop Consortium Vs. Matthew Shipp (Thirsty Ear, 2003)|
|Optometry (Thirsty Ear, 2002)|
|Dubtometry (Thirsty Ear, 2003)|
|Nothing Stays the Same (Thirsty Ear, 2003)|
|The Blue Series Continuum:|
|The GoodandEvil Sessions (Thirsty Ear, 2003)|
|The Sorcerer Sessions (Thirsty Ear, 2003)|
In jazz circles, Matthew Shipp is perhaps best known as the pianist in
the David S. Ware Quartet. Ware plays raw, bracing tenor sax rooted in
Sonny Rollins and Albert Ayler, but even more closely resembles something
we might project out of the painful searching of John Coltrane's last
works. But with Shipp and bass titan William Parker, the Ware Quartet
is more than the sum of its parts, and albums like Earthquation
(DIW, 1994), Godspellized (DIW, 1996), and Go See the World
(Columbia, 1998) stand as landmarks of free jazz in the '90s.
Shipp also recorded frequently as the leader of small groups, where his
distinctive piano -- think of a more muscular Monk and a more deliberate
Powell exploring in depth terrain that Cecil Taylor first flew over --
engaged in intimate dialogue with other stalwart avant-gardists. The
early series of albums is mostly of interest to specialists, although:
Zo is a sparkling duo with Parker;
The Multiplication Table, perhaps because it is a conventional
piano trio, is a fine showcase for Shipp; and the albums
with violinist Mat Manieri (The Flow of X, a quartet, and
Expansion, Power, Release, a trio with William Parker on bass)
suggest then transcend some form of quasiclassical chamber jazz.
But Shipp's career took a sharp turn in 1999 when he became Creative
Director of Thirsty Ear's jazz line, "the blue series," which gave
him carte blanche to explore the future of free jazz, but also put
him on the hook to sell some records. Pastoral
Composure was a quartet with Roy Campbell on trumpet, a more
conventional lineup which picked up the rhythm and let Shipp play
more percussively, bringing to the fore the heavy block chords and
clusters that have long been his signature. On New Orbit
Campbell was replaced by another trumpet player, Wadada Leo Smith,
for a slower and more lyrical outing.
But Shipp was also producing other Thirsty Ear artists, and his
work with Spring Heel Jack started to bring together elements of
free jazz, DJ culture, and hip-hop in fruitful ways. On Nu Bop
Shipp's acoustic free jazz group was joined by Chris Flam on synths
and programming, setting up fast regular beats and brooding soundscapes.
Equilibrium consolidates this progress, adding further rhythmic
finesse with Khan Jamal's vibes.
What made this something other than just another twist in the tangled
web of fusion was attitude: Shipp's view of jazz was formed by growing
up on punk, finding both to be what he calls "fuck you music." And
under Shipp's direction, the Blue Series has exploded with similar
experiments, including notable albums by jazz cohorts William Parker,
Guillermo E. Brown, and Mat Manieri.
Shipp's studio groups also form the sonic tapestrly for collaborations
with assorted DJs, rappers, and studio wizards, under their own names
or the default Blue Series Continuum. These range from the more abstract
Sorcerer Sessions to furious romps like the DJ Wally -- or even
heavier, the guest remixes of DJ Spooky's Optometry, dubbed
Meanwhile, Shipp has also brought the muse back to Ware, playing
synths instead of piano on Corridors & Parallels (Aum
Fidelity, 2001), one of the Ware Quartet's most invigorating
albums. Turns out that the age-old problem with fusion wasn't
selling out. It was losing the will to say "fuck you" when it
|Sonic Explorations (Cadence, 1987)|
|Points (Silkheart, 1990)|
|Prism (Hatology, 1993)|
|Before the World (FMP, 1995)|
|Symbol Systems (No More, 1995)|
|By the Law of Music (Hatology, 1996)|
|Magnetism (Bleuregard, 1999)|
|Rob Brown & Matthew Shipp:|
|Blink of an Eye (No More, 1997)|
|Ivo Perelman with Matthew Shipp:|
|Bendito of Santa Cruz (Cadence, 1996)|
|Andrew Barker, Matthew Shipp, Charles Waters:|
|Apostolic Polyphony (Drimala, 2003)|
- The Matthew Shipp
Discography, by Rick Lopez.
Hampton Review of Nu Bop (Village Voice): "signals a new
round in the great snipe hunt for that creature called fusion".
Giddins on David S. Ware.
Giddins Year End List: Matthew Shipp's New Orbit.
Sound Forever: Interview (May 1999) with Dave Reitzes. "but if you
get down to the genesis of my concept about what jazz piano playing
is, it's a certain idea of line. . . . And in my playing, even at its
densest, I really do think like a bebop player, which is integrity of
line." Shipp talks about the Duke Ellington pyramid of piano players,
under which you find Monk, under which you find Waldron/Weston/Taylor,
under which you find Shipp. "I think jazz by its nature, from bebop
on, is an underground language with a very similar gestural genesis
- Paul Edelstein (Rolling Stone):
Review of Matthew Shipp's New Orbit: "one of the most daring and
original pianists in jazz".
- David Fricke (Rolling Stone): Review of Circular Temple and
albums by Coltrane, Gaye, and Ware. "At times in '#1,' Shipp's singular
union of cracked-note hammering and delicate harmonic suspense suggests
a duet between Erik Satie and a very pissed off Cecil Taylor."
by Alexander Laurence: "I think that sampling is a very valid form
of musical thought. For someone to do it well requires musical
imagination. You can?t be against it. Any aspect of Hip Hop is closer
to the Jazz spirit than some of the conservative notions of people
like Winston Marsalis. Max Roach said he understood where Hiphop was
coming from. Hip Hop is here to stay. DJ culture is very valid."
Matos (Gallery of Sound). Quotes Shipp: "So the initial impulse
of the label was not jazz-meets-electronica, but avant-garde jazz, but
not the way it's been done in the '90s. It was to really emphasize the
lyrical aspects of their way of playing. Mainly, the electronica thing
happened through Spring Heel Jack, who were on the label. At first I
wasn't sure, but it worked, and that was the beginning of it."
Hoard (Rolling Stone): Review of Equilibrium, ***: "On the
first of his three 2003 releases, pianist Shipp delivers a mellow
concoction of atmospheric textures, electronic samples and funk-lite
beats. Still too avant-jazzy for most rock fans but fine dinner music
by Brian L. Knight: "I think at its best, jazz is 'fuck you music'.
I think that is what they share. They share a similar energy. To me,
jazz is at its best, when it has completely gone against the status quo.
Of course, we want to all get accepted and make money. I think the energy
from jazz has to be outlaw energy or it is just not vital. It shares the
same 'fuck you' attitude as punk if it is good. If you are trying to
conform, you might as well forget it."