This reissue is one of a series of five classic albums which Matthew Shipp recorded for hatOLOGY, and it presents the pianist in a superb setting with what he calls his "String Trio." Shipp's compositions show a romantic flair, imbued with a spirit of sophisticated discovery and complex relationships, but what makes them so compelling is the manner in which the trio interprets them, each piece ringing with a sense of completeness. Shipp's performances, in particular, are orderly constructs that in retrospect take thoroughly improvised logical paths. It is to his credit that the organic nature of the pieces merges the various elements so well, and the performances of William Parker and Mat Maneri are so utterly compatible and compelling. As with almost any artistic invention, the music can be heard on a variety of levels: as chamber jazz, it has a beauty that rewards even the casual listener, while the sophisticated interrelationships give it a great depth and even charm. Ben Ratliffe notes in his detailed liners that "Shipp's debt to Bach and 20th century classical composers is obvious," and he quotes the pianist as saying he does not "know what jazz is." Whatever this music is called, the elements of free improvisation, melodic invention, and syncopated rhythms combine to create something of lasting value, evidenced in part by the relative popularity of such seemingly esoteric fare. The final piece by Ellington connects a line that puts Shipp within a tradition that places improvised music outside any pre-conceived modes.
AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy