The Unidentifiable


Downbeat calls Matthew Shipp "an elder statesman on the free-jazz scene." Perhaps it is odd in a way to think of someone so energetic and prolific as "elder," or so outspoken as "statesman," yet Downbeat (Bill Milkowski) is right. Shipp turns 60 this December. When he speaks, people listen (the old E.F. Hutton commercials come to mind). With Andrew Hill, Mal Waldron, Cecil Taylor, Horace Tapscott, Randy Weston, and McCoy Tyner now gone, who are the elder jazz piano giants now living? Dave Burrell, Cooper-Moore, Richie Beirach, and Martial Solal come to mind among those still active. Solal is mainstream; Beirach more mainstream now than free though he's been on the edge at times; Burrell and Cooper-Moore still mighty forces as Vision Festival concerts in recent years have shown, but neither especially prolific in terms of recordings. All of them older than Shipp, so he stands alone in his generation. To look at it from a slightly different angle than Downbeat did, Matthew Shipp has established himself as the premier avant-garde jazz pianist of his generation. Shipp is not willing to be put in a stylistic box. And nowhere is that more apparent than in his trio with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker. Starting in the bebop era, the piano-bass-drums lineup has been the most classic jazz format in which the piano is featured, accumulating the weight of history and critical expectations. In this setting, a non-mainstream player such as Shipp can infiltrate Newport Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and other Establishment bastions in a familiar format and then unleash his ideas on audiences that might not normally be exposed to his style. Thanks to hearing it in the communal language of the piano trio, they can better understand the message the Matthew Shipp Trio has to deliver. Shipp, Bisio, and Baker convened at Shipp's favorite recording venue last year looking to pursue a new direction. The result is both distinctively Shippian yet a further evolution of the group's sound. Personnel: Matthew Shipp - piano; Michael Bisio - bass; Newman Taylor Baker - drums. Recorded October 10, 2019 at Park West Studios in Brooklyn, NY by Jim Clouse. Produced by Steve Holtje.