Matthew Shipp/ William Parker Duo | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Matthew Shipp/ William Parker Duo 


Because he can create thick textures from busily intersecting melody lines, and because he plays with power and passion in the arena of free improvisation, pianist Matthew Shipp has attracted the inevitable comparisons to Cecil Taylor, the guru of postsong piano jazz. Taylor's jagged musical vocabulary, abstract syntax, and revolutionary inflection pose a language barrier for many listeners; some of them seem to think anyone using similar techniques must ipso facto "sound like Cecil." And the fact that Shipp most frequently aligns himself with bassist William Parker--a member of Taylor's bands for most of the last decade--only adds fuel to the fire. But Shipp much prefers the airy pointillism of rapid-fire single-note playing to Taylor's dense, buffeting chords, and in his improvisations he offers up a form and logic so radically different as to all but obliterate such analogies. In his own recordings, and on such noteworthy obscurities as a 1990 album by drummer Marc Edwards called Black Queen (Alpha Phonics--good luck), the youthful-looking Shipp has proved himself among the most lyrical of free-form pianists: like such contemporaries as Marilyn Crispell and Myra Melford, Shipp has no qualms about using the language pioneered by Taylor to achieve relatively concrete goals of melodic development and formal construction. Bassist Parker delineates an anchoring pulse with a burly technique and a sound that seems larger for its blunted resonance; he supports Shipp like a buoyant sea, mostly reserving his extended technique for bowed solos laden with overtones. Throughout the 90s, Shipp and Parker have served as head and heart of saxist David S. Ware's quartet (the last setting in which Shipp came to Chicago). But as well as they perform their parts in that sonic maelstrom--or in the more spacious setting of Cama de Terra (Homestead), a recent trio date led by the Brazilian banshee saxist Ivo Perlman--the best hint at tomorrow night's music remains Zo (Rise), a splendid 1993 duet that allowed Shipp to traverse the impressive range of his own music. Saturday, 8:30 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Allan Wallace.

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