Monday, July 18, 2011

Matthew Shipp Duets with Winds.

Between 1987 and now Matthew Shipp has made duets with wind players a recurring pursuit to the point where there are a number of recordings and examples of these focused and fascinating benchmarks of his elaborate participations and contributions.

The earliest recorded one was a document of a collaboration with a friend. Several are projects where Mr. Shipp was specifically engaged to bring his potentials to a colleague.

Others follow the original plan and come from affinities and friendships strikingly shaped as sounds.

The summary of these duets makes the counterpart participants and their various roles the focus. Mr. Shipp is true to his essential outlook and aim throughout so a listener mainly follows the arc of his discoveries and excursions.

It all rests on ground of an easy familiarity with all that has preceded him and rises to seeking with each waking day. It is the search of the intrigued and wonder based outlook where a piece grows from some kernel or other and shifts as a stream runs its course.

He covers drums, bass and a counter voice to his wind rooted counterparts with a powerful and alert suppleness.

The highly portable and concentrated mini ensemble form that is a piano and wind duet has been a Shipp focus since he roamed Jordan Hall, at least. 

The upper floors of Jordan Hall then were full of small piano practice rooms. The most readily available ones are too small for an ensemble or even an upright bass but a horn player can fit in. Matthew generally has a charitable and warm regard for pianos and will cut em slack if they work reasonably well. Sure, in a fair and thoughtful world he’d mainly be working high end Steinways and up but why let a little thing like humble provenance and a bit of wear get in the way?

In a life often reduced to a blur of flights, train trips and bus rides over the rind of the spinning globe, a piano, for Mr. Shipp, is home. When he arrived here on Mothers Day, he embraced the gallery upright the minute he got there so the flow of conversation met a stream of Ellington channeled as a spirit more than a structure.

Where others before him have been known to fuss mightily over breaking through boxes to offer up monumental edifices, he prefers to let the moment make the structure, to let the stream course shape the shore.

And so it was that a Piano and Saxophone duet became a valuable way to model sonic teamwork and ensemble dynamics. Practice room access wasn’t too restricted and the cat herding that attends getting a drum and bass involved was removed as an issue. There may be an early example of these duets from 84 to 85  involving Gary Joynes at the Brandeis Radio Station series, World Class Jazz at the Joint. The search is ongoing.