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Broken Partials, Matthew Shipp and Joe Morris, Not Two Records, 2011


In the beginning was an African ritual in which the ring shout and the innate rhythm elicited by the stomping of feet represented a cue for a communal gathering of spirits. Throughout history, the purity of the ring shout has changed to evoke and provoke more than was ever intended. A music evolved most often associated with the blues. The blues became “jazz” and “jazz” has so many offshoots that they sometimes have no name except “sound.”  

Broken Partials is a duet between longtime collaborators, pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist Joe Morris.  The recording’s salient focus is how the sound develops from “Broken Partials, One” to “Broken Partials, Eight.” The redundancy of the title describes both the improvised steps that constitute the whole and the infinitely brief hiatuses between and within those steps.

Concision of motion on their instruments clarifies the process that the musicians go through to tell their story, the outcome of which is unknown until the resilient pizzicato on the bass simply ends the recording. The subject of the story that they are both telling is how they play their instruments. Chords counteract sensible sequences of notes that transform from one to another through tremolos, runs, walking lines, arpeggios, ostinatos; snapped, pounded and repeated single notes; and the rare indications of melody.

The tempos may be laid back occasionally but the tempos only become important if it cannot be understood that they are part and parcel of the reason that the music falls into shapes that intersect, run parallel, blend, or split. Tempos and pitch, chord, key, phrase, interaction, separation and understated, underlying rhythm indivisibly define the improvisation. No matter how abstractly the music is explained verbally, words can never equal the abstract beauty of the music as it lends itself to the passing of time.  

copyright 2011 Lyn Horton

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