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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Butcher, Lehn, Shipp / The Core Trio

John Butcher, Thomas Lehn, Matthew Shipp - Tangle (Fataka, 2016) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

The trio of saxophonist John Butcher, pianist Matthew Shipp, and analog synthesizer player Thomas Lehn deliver powerful and unique music on 'Tangle'. Shipp, who has been making waves recently discussing his decision to stop making albums, is in fine form, as is Butcher and Lehn, in creating intense climatic and dense passages, accentuated by sparse atmospheric moments.

The opening track 'Cluster I' is a fine example of the Shipp and Lehn pinging ideas off of each other - snippets and sounds, and inviting Butcher to respond with his own rich array of techniques. The peak that Shipp and Butcher reach here, with Lehn interweaving visceral textures, is mouthwatering. The other tracks achieve similar brilliance, engaging with soundscapes sounding at times like underwater laser battles ('Cluster II'), or long walks down crumbling passageways ('Cluster III'). All of what they do is wrapped lovingly in melodically engaging and rhythmically driven improvisation.

The chemistry of Butcher, Shipp and Lehn is apparent and with the analog synthesizer,  their music is a truly refreshing. Let's hope that Shipp's decision doesn't thwart a second entanglement!

The Core Trio Featuring Matthew Shipp - Live (Evil Rabit, 2016) ****

The Texas based core of The Core Trio is Thomas Helton (double bass), Seth Paynter (sax) and Joe Hertenstein (drums). However, it may be okay for The Core Trio to admit they're actually a quartet as Live is the third album to feature Shipp, and his intense attacks and gentle accompaniment are an integral part of the group's sound.

The album's execution is flawless, the attention to detail is impressive, and the music simply flows. Paynter's sax work runs from breathy to fiery and compliments both Shipps' ruminative moments as well as his bold and crushing crescendos. Not 10 minutes into the first track and the quiet that the track opened with has blossomed into a soaring musical arc, the type that is often described as spiritual. Groaning bass and minimalist percussion follow the early climax foreshadowing the next peak, which is signaled by deliberate middle register block chords from the piano.

A solid hour of the Core Trio's music passes quickly. Live is an excellent follow up to 2014's semi eponymous album, The Core Trio with Matthew Shipp.

On Bandcamp there is a also a Core Trio, as a trio, recording from 2015, name your price.


Colin Green said...

Although it's not entirely clear, I think Shipp is saying he won't be making any further albums as a leader, not that he'll stop recording altogether, which wouldn't make much sense if he's continuing to perform: