Click here to [close]

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Matthew Shipp Trio - World Construct (ESP-Disk', 2022)

By Gregg Miller

The fifth of 5 excellent albums since 2015, Matthew Shipp’s trio (Michael Bisio on bass, Newman Taylor Baker on percussion) now presents World Construct, a summation and extension of their singular sound. Free-playing within the constraint set by Shipp’s distinctive musical grammar.

The opening Latin groove is a throw-away, musical humor, a false start. The record truly opens with the second piece, solo piano entitled “Sustained Construct,” which is as delicate a phrasing as Shipp has ever recorded. Within the context of a life-long development of a driving technique, this sudden beauty. The third piece, “Spine,” gives us the realized ideal of this group. Bisio and Baker’s colorings are just perfect. Full complementarity producing transcendence from within. (It picks up on the mood of “Dark Sea Negative Charge” from the trio’s 2020 release, The Unidentifiable.) The fourth track, “Jazz Posture,” opens with the duo of Bisio’s energetic bass scatterings mixed with Baker’s tasteful propulsion. Shipp enters with pitched percussive lines, quickly drawn melodic phrases, and the occasional, stepped chordal cluster. At the closeout, Baker's soloing creates a little world unto itself. On the fifth track, “Beyond Understanding,” the trio works in the space of delicacy opened by “Sustained Construct.” Cymbal work and toms; high plucking and arco bass; slow cadences, each gesture a partial, outer aspect of that which cannot be fully brought to presence. A lovely little dreamsong. “Talk Power” continues in a calming vein, at times like a series of slow-release contractions. Then the bombshell, “Abandoned,” an onslaught piece, the heaviest and most dense piece here. Here they offset the gentle mystery of patient discovery with the gas open at full throttle.

“A Mysterious State” opens with Bisio walking. Baker accommodates with a snare-forward groove. Eventually the snare hits give it a martial feel. Shipp offers a counter-walk to Bisio, like we’re looking through two sides of the telescope at the same time. The three each work oscillating grooves to the point of discomfiture, and then find new patterns. Throughout this tune, there are cross-purposes at work, like wind hitting from all sides, like reluctant soldiers not really wanting to line up, maybe listening for the right moment to disobey marching orders, to throw down their arms, or turn on their commanders. “Stop the World” renews the more contemplative mood. Bisio’s plucked bass sings the song, Shipp’s held chords provide the framework. (Baker sits this one out.) Bisio, it turns out is a genius.

“Sly Glance,” has nu bop bones: A strong melodic statement, occasional desconstructive elements, pushed ever forward by flowing, driving pulse. A bit loose, but good. The groove brings to mind some of Shipp’s earlier work on Harmonic Disorder (Thirsty Ear, 2009), the Root of Things (Relative Pitch, 2014), and certainly the title track of this trio’s first record, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear, 2015). Still kicks, though. The last tune, the title tune, “World Construct,” is patiently introduced by Shipp developing a mode which seems to slowly rotate until we’re somehow hearing it from the inside out. Bisio enters strumming the beat and then echoing the turning melody. Baker arrives and moves into a shuffle, Bisio starts walking, and suddenly the whole landscape shifts. It’s like they’re all doing parallel cartwheels, dancing to a pulse that they all feel without anyone having been assigned to directly provide it. Ideas come and go in waves. Five minutes in, the tune actually becomes kind of a mess, but the mess of jazz giants, a free-for-all within a world delineated by rules that the players have intuited; utter freedom becomes collective intention. Wonderful!

As a whole, this record delivers. The delicate moments are gorgeous. The dense moments ride the pulse between swing and drive. Shipp's sonic world is fully realized here, the work of three masters. Delightful.


Patt Blue said...

Fantastic trio that I have heard and seen in person at the Lace Mill Sunday concerts in Kingston, NY, organized by Michael Bisio.

Gregg Miller said...

Yes, wonderful to see/hear live. They came to Seattle as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival in 2017. Terrific and memorable performance. Hopefully they will come again soon.