Matthew Shipp

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Thesis Review

by Thom Jurek

This date is an exhausting stunner. Here are 13 improvisations by two of the most inventive players in the new music. Shipp is creating the first truly new approach to the piano since Cecil Taylor, and Joe Morris has literally reinvented the guitar's place in improvisational music in general and in jazz in particular. Recorded in one day in 1997, Morris and Shipp are two players uniquely suited to one another. Where Shipp is as influenced by drummers as he is by pianists, Morris has been influenced by saxophonists as well as guitar players. What exists between them is a fiery lyricism replete with staggering arpeggios, colorful digressions of dualistic chromaticism combined with the stagger-and-lurch method of self-discovery in the midst of heated contrapuntal improvisation. Shipp uses all the piano registers equally well. His hands seek out areas where harmonies criss-cross into new ones. Morris uses short, knotty spins and turns of phrase, winding his way around those very large chords and rhythms put across by his partner. And when Morris moves into his instrument's lower reaches, passing off clusters of notes that by their nature are polytonal, Shipp goes even lower, building a bridge of octaves that is crossable only by the right sequence of modal events. It's pointless to mention individual selections on a date as intense and breathless as this one. Suffice to say that this was a first in each man's experience, to be able to communicate with another this much intricacy, melodic invention, and abstract assonance, immediately. Stunning.

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