Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pastoral Composure

Matthew Shipp: Pastoral Composure. Posted by Hello

Black History Month progresses toward the twilight of February at HurdAudio as tonight I've applied ears to Pastoral Composure from 2000 by pianist Matthew Shipp.

This is a great quartet. "Gesture" opens this disc with a fantastic sonic texture layered together with Gerald Cleaver's steady sheets of drumming, William Parker's large, round bass sound, Matthew Ship vamping and improvising between a pair of tonal centers and topped off with Roy Campbell's trumpet improvising some inspired melodic lines as a focal point of this dense sound. Aptly named, "Gesture" is a singular sonic gesture that allows the ears to focus on the details of a rich sonic environment.

"Vision" follows this gesture with some straight jazz. The bass line walks, the ride cymbal swings, the chord progression churns along and Shipp proves he can kick up a solo with deep roots reaching toward the likes of Bud Powell and Art Tatum. Solos are passed through the quartet in a traditional manner and I find myself needing to close my jaw after William Parker's turn. He has a great tone on the bass.

The appreciative nod to tradition is continued with an energetic solo piano rendition of Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss."

Then the title track comes on and resumes a quartet gesture-painting of an ambitious sonic canvas. This time the soft mallets come out on Gerald Cleaver's drum kit as sounds swell like ocean waves as Roy Campbell again takes the focal point with his trumpet.

"Progression" repeats the pattern of following a texture work with a more traditional sounding straight jazz work. This would seem to be a golden age of great trumpet improvisers. Campbell delivers an exquisite solo and leaves a large dent in my consciousness.

"Frere Jacques" follows as an ambitious full quartet arrangement. It's amusing to find this particular melody inspiring an intensely "free jazz" treatment. This isn't your toddler's "Where Is Thumbkin." It's Frere in passing and as a reference point for some weighty lightness demonstrating that even a nursery song can be a launching point for some moody, and at times dark explorations.

"Merge" is a trio piece that showcases Shipp's focused concentration and intensity. As a work of modern jazz piano this is a sonic highlight of this disc.

"Inner Order" slows down the pace set by "Merge" with a duet between Parker and Campbell. Great interplay. Great musicians. Too short.

"XTU" closes out this disc with solo sonic painting on the piano. At times scalar, at time pointilistic, this is a quick dose from a master improviser.

This CD is the inaugural release for a label called Thirsty Ear. Which aptly describes the Matthew Shipp effect. Pastoral Composure is thick with ideas that pull me along but keep my ears from feeling sated or saturated. By the end of this listening experience I really am "thirsty" for more.

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