Matthew Shipp

Nu Bop Live

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This Italian import documents a 2004 festival gig by Matthew Shipp's then-operational Nu Bop ensemble, named after one of his first studio albums to mix jazz and electronics. Shipp plays acoustic piano throughout; the electronics (programmed beats and other sounds) are handled by drummer Guillermo Brown, whose own work combines jazz, funk, hip-hop, and laptop electronica. The pianist's longtime partner, William Parker, plays bass, and Daniel Carter of Test and Other Dimensions in Music is up front on alto and tenor saxophone. The gig begins with the studio album's title track, "Nu Bop," in a version that's much more unfettered and aggressive than the recorded take. Carter's saxophone solo recalls John Zorn in its screeching and sandpapery tone. That's followed by a nearly eight-minute drum-and-laptop solo from Brown, which derails the momentum somewhat, but it leads smoothly into a quick (three and a half minutes) version of the pulsating "Rocket Shipp," basically a piano-drums duo though Parker's audible in the back, and then things get really weird. "Did I Say That?" is a showcase for Carter that begins with harsh breathing and guttural chanting before he picks up the alto saxophone and really goes to town, unleashing long screaming runs at full force. The bulk of the disc is taken up with a nearly 26-minute version of "Nu Abstract," a piece that finds Shipp plucking at the strings inside the piano for an almost harpsichord-like effect. Brown throws all kinds of sound effects, from dripping water to squelching synths to what sounds like a manipulated horn line, out there, as Parker bows his bass and Carter duets with all the weirdness like Ornette Coleman on a mid-‘90s Prime Time album. In its final third, the piece becomes convulsive, concussive free jazz, with the electronics taking a back seat to pure quartet uproar. And the concert closes with a six-minute run through Shipp's stately, romantic "Virgin Complex," a melancholy theme that inspires some almost liturgical playing. This disc is by no means a footnote in Shipp's lengthy discography; indeed, it supplants the studio album that shares its title, which felt at the time and still feels like a not fully realized experiment.

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