Matthew Shipp | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Matthew Shipp

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Working as a bandleader, duetting with the likes of William Parker and Roscoe Mitchell, and playing in the volcanic David S. Ware Quartet, pianist Matthew Shipp made some of the most intense, unalloyed free jazz of the 90s. But so far this decade he's spent much of his time exploring other possibilities: he's refined hybrids of jazz and popular idioms with DJ Spooky and members of the hip-hop group Antipop Consortium, played electric piano with electroacoustic improvisers (and former drum-and-bass technicians) Spring Heel Jack, and released three solo albums whose mix of acoustic jazz grooves and programmed beats suggests an arranged marriage between Horace Silver and Boards of Canada. His latest CD, One (Thirsty Ear), signals a new phase in his 17-year recording career, forgoing the collaborators and plugged-in accessories of his recent efforts as well as the bombastic fury of his earlier work. Playing solo, Shipp uses elegantly drawn, briskly stated melodies as launchpads for succinct but satisfying harmonic explorations. While he's never rendered his structural ideas so transparently, he's managed to keep his music emotionally evocative: "Gamma Ray" opens with a quizzical, Monk-ish figure, while "The Encounter" begins with a note of trepidation but ends with an air of openhearted warmth. This is Shipp's first Chicago appearance since 2001. See also Saturday. Fri 2/10, 7:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15.

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