Matthew Shipp | PianoForte Studios | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Matthew Shipp

Matthew Shipp

Lena Adasheva

When: Wed., Aug. 27, 5:30 p.m. 2014
Pianist Matthew Shipp has been a contemplative, intense improviser at least since the early 90s, but after turning 50 in late 2010 he began complementing that quality with a sense of stocktaking. Last year’s wittily titled Greatest Hits surveys the stylistically diverse work he’s made for Thirsty Ear Records, and his forthcoming solo disc for the label, I’ve Been to Many Places (due September 9), feels ruminative as well. As he writes in the liner notes, “This recording is meant as a reflection on where I have been in the music—so I visit and revisit, or should I say re-interpret, many of the houses I have occupied.” Those houses include a stint in the David S. Ware Quartet from the early 90s till the mid-aughts as well as ongoing partnerships with violist Mat Maneri and bassist William Parker. Shipp delivers new renditions of some standards he played in those collaborations, including “Tenderly,” “Naima,” and “Summertime,” but most of the tracks are strong new compositions that capture the stylistic distance he’s traveled to arrive at his present compact sound, which can be lighter and more direct than his earlier work or bruising in its idea-packed density. None of this is to suggest Shipp is stuck in the past; earlier this year he released the trio session Root of Things (Relative Pitch), one of the best recordings of his career. And though the recent live recording Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital (Aum Fidelity), his second duo with alto saxophonist Darius Jones, includes some of the pianist’s trademark gestures—especially ominous dirges of dark-hued left-hand figures—it also bristles with forward-looking energy. Both players lock in, feeding and cajoling each other with alternately somber and brutal lines; Jones frequently pushes his horn into a teakettle upper register that might be too much without Shipp’s thunderous, pensive grounding, his slashing brightness countering the pianist’s brooding torpor. This solo performance is part of a series of such concerts presented by the Chicago Jazz Festival and PianoForte. —Peter Margasak

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