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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Matthew Shipp and Mat Walerian Duo - Live in Okuden (ESP-Disk, 2015) ****

By Paul Acquaro

I began listening to Matthew Shipp in the early 2000s, drawn in by the ambient and electronics on albums like NuBop and Harmony and Abyss, I soon discovered that there was little of Shipp's output that I did not enjoy. Whether solo, in a  duo or with his long standing trio with Whit Dickey and Michael Bisio, his playing is always striking, and the same it true here in this duo with bass clarinetist Mat Walerian.

Walerian hails from Poland and is a part of the strong improvisation scene that has developed there (see Martin's great 'Polish Week') and has studied with Shipp.  Live in Okuden is his first on ESP-Disk and was recorded in 2012 at the Orkuden Jazz Festival in Poland.

I find the recording both relaxing and invigorating - Shipp's piano playing is rich and supportive - whether comping out chords, angular lines or something else entirely, his ideas are always solid and delivered with intensity. Walerian's lines are often short and precise, offering ideas, sketches, and suggestions.

Some of the more intense moments, like on 'Free Bop Statement One' or the post-Coltrane expression on 'It's Sick Out There' reveals the duo's comfort with the many guises of 'jazz'. As Parker suggests in his liner notes, this is not music of a certain style, but rather honest music making. 

Parker writes
As the music progresses from clarinets to alto sax to flute, you can hear sound and space disrobe to reveal villages with beautiful clouds over trees laced with seraphic hues and birds dancing. The musicians are never concerned about style or genre.  
 Live in Okuden exemplifies the possibilities of the duo. Shipp is in great form and the album is a nice introduction to Walerian's imaginative playing.