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Friday, December 5, 2014

The Core Trio - Core Trio with Matthew Shipp (self released, 2014) ****

By Stefan Wood

The Core is a Houston Texas based group comprised of Thomas Helton (double bass), Seth Paynter (sax) and Joe Hertenstein (drums). Their second release features Matthew Shipp on piano, and on this album, a 42 minute long free jazz opus, is gripping from start to finish.

From the opening with the shivering sounds of the bass, and cymbals, emphasized by the pounding keys of the piano, to the end where the hard bop flavor of the sax and the crashing percussion, the Core takes the listener on an aural journey. Shipp is essential here, providing a key focal point as the Core tightly intertwines around each other’s sound then breaks off, becomes harmonious, then chaotic. The piano sets a theme, a series of notes that the others respond to, as shown about eleven minutes into the album, calm piano enhanced by rolling cymbals, the bowing of strings and counterpoint by the sax. Peaceful moments are quickly offset by loud aggressive playing, pounding piano and drums, the sax squealing and skronking. The group effort is tight, and the transitions from mood to mode are organic and well realized. Paynter’s sax playing encompasses different modes, from hard bop to ballad to free form, his sound strong, slightly slurred, but creative. Helton glues everything together with a double bass that can murmur underneath the other’s playing, providing tension and atmosphere. A nice moment is where Helton has a brief duet with Shipp, bowing the bass in all sorts of manners, Shipp responding with well placed notes. The last 6-7 minutes develop into a strolling bop piece, everyone assuming the standard roles, then returning to the mannerisms that began the piece.

Thoughtful, well executed, and most importantly, very listenable, the Core Trio with Matthew Shipp is an engaging album and is easily recommended.