MATTHEW SHIPP & WILLIAM PARKER
While there are definitely constants in the playing of New York pianist Matthew Shipp--classically influenced harmonic complexity, emotional darkness--as a collaborator he approaches each particular artist, each group, and each recording session differently. In fact, two of his recent albums seem in some ways like the work of different pianists. Thesis, recorded last year with Boston guitarist Joe Morris, is consistently quiet, thick with melodic brambles, their long, spiky lines twisting around each other, snagging and rubbing uncomfortably together, never falling into an easy accord. Shipp's lines are just as knotty on The Multiplication Table, his new trio record (both discs are on Hatology), but the friction he creates with bassist William Parker and drummer Susie Ibarra is much more volcanic. And while Thesis focuses on tense, balanced interplay between two musicians, with Parker and Ibarra Shipp is more traditionally dominant, prodding the ensemble along or cooling things down. When he burrows unaccompanied into the thundering bass chords on The Multiplication Table's treatment of Ellington's "C Jam Blues," he seems intent on pummeling the tune's telltale riff to bits, even as he keeps coming back to that snippet of melody. The trio also offers a wonderful interpretation of "Autumn Leaves" and a madly (if only occasionally) swinging "Take the 'A' Train," and since the core material is so familiar, both tunes highlight the rigor Shipp brings to them. Even on an original like "ZT 1," though, Shipp's depth is immeasurable. He employs pin-drop dynamics that cast key sounds in stark relief; a wide range of tone color, from gentle, splayed-open clusters to extended techniques like plucking and damping strings by hand; and split-second interactions with the ensemble--overall it's the sonic equivalent of a Max Kline work. Bassist Parker is a longtime cohort of Shipp's, both in this trio and in the David S. Ware Quartet, and their musical relationship is uncommonly intuitive and trusting. Parker commands huge reserves of power and speed, but he's capable of bringing them all to bear on a single small, hushed gesture; their last duo performance in town was a marvel of tightly harnessed energy. Friday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. Parker will also play with Kali Z. Fasteau (see separate Critic's Choice) and Hamid Drake Sunday, 6 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Alen Wallace.