Click here to [close]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Matthew Shipp Quartet - Cosmic Suite (Not Two, 2008) *****

Matthew Shipp brings another of his instant classics, like "Pastoral Composure", "New Orbit", or "Nu Bop", his quartet recordings with respectively Roy Campbell, Wadada Leo Smith or Daniel Carter on the horn. The rhythm section here consists of Joe Morris on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, and Daniel Carter plays trumpet and sax, four musicians who've played numerous times together and released regular albums over the past twenty years.

The album brings a suite in 9 parts, starting with an interesting and disturbing piece, that sets the tone for the rest of the record. Carter's trumpet is meditative, and Shipp seems to joins for slow jazzy accompaniment, weaving beautiful harmonics, but only briefly, shifting tone and tempo abruptly, moving into more avant-garde territory, followed by bass and drums. And as Carter moves to tenor, this does not seem to perturb his meditative feel, despite the nervousness playing of the three other musicians. The second part is really calm, without any apparent theme or melody, yet it is structured, with lots of silence and openness, Carter's on bass clarinet, still keeping his cool tone, with Morris on arco, and Shipp and Dickey accentuating the barely audible fragile playing by Carter. This seamlessly moves into the third piece, still calm, but dark and intense, with the piano taking a break. The fourth track increases the tempo and back into bop harmonics and rhythms, with Shipp setting the scene and driving the music forward, just to retreat again and leave the floor to the three others, only to join again for the closing chords. Part six is a piano trio, with very abstract improvisation by Shipp, with lots of variation in mood and rhythm, slowing down for a solo piano piece on the seventh track. After a more intense and propulsive, thundering piece, the last track goes back to the open-ended avant mode of the third part of the suite, but now with the piano joining. It is the most sensitive and most beautiful piece, and that says a lot, because every track on this album is stunning. Lots of variation, sensitive and creative playing, innovative and familiar. Without a doubt one of Matthew Shipp's best records in years. Highly recommended.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef