No matter whether he plays solo or with his trio, in his recordings, Matthew Shipp appropriates a signature design that includes introduction, evolution, climax, denouement and conclusion. The quality of the music in each recording never shifts; its character does. His fourth recording with his trio, this group including Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, Elastic Aspects demonstrates clarity of motion that goes unquestionably forward but never deviates from an intensity, even in its quiet moments, that denotes universal embrace.
This story is prefaced with a slow-tempo arco bass line layered over amplified, distorted drumming and piano. Shipp’s mid-range chords, which he exits with single treble notes, follow; and then, after a breath, the guts roll out. Bassist Bisio picks out a sturdy rhythm; drummer Dickey coincides with light cymbal to snare combinations; and the piano persistently relates thematic ostinatos. It is as if Shipp opens the gates for everyone to walk through. The tracks each have titles, but that fact matters only for reference, because the music unwinds effortlessly from one place to the next without a hitch.
A mixture of abstraction interspersed with formal, heavy and subsequently boppish melody melts off Shipp’s sure fingers; he forms stunning improvisations that climb, curve round or spread out like the limbs of a tree to their creatively alogical end. Even when he goes under the hood of the piano, as in “Stage 10,” his determination is measurable; his purpose is audible in the clipped –off resonance. In fact, hearing his technique on the sounding board juxtaposed with his keyboard work is educational. It arouses awareness to the intersections of his pedaling with his fingering. Shipp is concerned with the broadness of his reach and the details within. How he manipulates them both preaches to the bass and the drums their role in communicating his overarching message.
Shipp hands a large portion of the development of this music to Bisio, whose weighty, resilient arco solos, particularly in “Rainforest,” are exceptional. Bisio plays into his instrument; he is not tall so his gravity is centered where he places his bow on the strings. The sound he produces is bound in rhythm and unrelenting in expression to exhibit sensitivity to change and range. When he works within the group, his pizzicatos are strong, relaxed and thoroughly united with music’s direction.
Dickey dictates his own boundaries. He steers towards rendering the sound that much fuller: the cymbal hissing and the snare skin shaking signify his presence. His playing becomes a means to stretch the musical line as opposed to being hell-bent on “keeping the beat.”
Continually achieving recognition and praise in the world for his musicianship, Matthew Shipp always succeeds in doing what he is meant to do: which is to make new music and lay aside all the superfluous nonsense that flutters around him.
copyright 2012 Lyn Horton
Track listing: Alternative Aspects; Aspects; Psychic Counterpart; Frame Focus; Flow Chart; Mute Voice; Explosive Aspects; Raw Materials; Rainforest; Stage 10; Dimension; Elastic Aspects; Elastic Eye.