Adventurous has always been the word for the music of Matthew Shipp, and Art of the Improviser his new two-CD set is no exception. At first glance, the purple-and-black cover, with its solid-set lettering, appears to be two disks of Matt solo, but it turns out to be two dates: one in a trio with drummer Whit Dickey and bassist Mike Bisio (recorded in Troy, New York) and a second solo at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Both contain reworkings of previously recorded tunes, and there are two lovely reworkings of covers: Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train” with the trio and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” played solo.
As is true of his other Thirsty Ear CDs, Matt takes us on a sonic journey — one which titles such as “Circular Temple” and “Gamma Ray” are reflective of.
Matt’s music is meditative, reflective and lyrical yet also assertive, boisterous, celebratory, exploratory, sometimes cacophanous, often percussive and frequently orchestral.
These disks clearly show that Matthew Shipp remains one of the most important pianists in today’s jazz. If you are not familiar with his work, and if you like challenging yet reflective music, Art of the Improviser is well worth a listen.