In conjunction with the opening reception for the multi-media exhibition, “Freedom Through Collective Improvisation: iEAR Presents! Free Jazz from the Sanctuary,” the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy played host to a free-wheeling concert by the Matthew Shipp Trio.
Casually dressed, Shipp slipped in behind the grand piano, looked quickly at his band mates and with a nod of his head launched into two flowing sets of collective improvisation and in-the-moment dynamic collaboration. Drummer Whit Dickey and bassist Michael Bisio were much more than just a backing rhythm section – they were musical explorers right alongside Shipp.
The trio’s non-verbal communication fused notes together one minute and shattered them apart the next through a cascade of dissonant harmonies. The rhythmic textures woven into the fabric of the compositions were at once refreshingly new and avant-garde, but also comfortingly timeless, drawing from the traditional lineage that ranges from Fats Waller through Thelonious Monk to Cecil Taylor.
Flashes of brilliance marked many a musical interlude as Shipp’s own unique compositions flowed in and out of several jazz standards including the perennial “On Green Dolphin Street” in the first set and the Ellington-Strayhorn chesnut “Take the A Train” in the second.
For the past 16 years, Matthew Shipp has held down the piano chair in experimental saxophonist David S. Ware’s ground-breaking quartet. Now branching out on his own, Shipp has recently teamed up with Bisio and Dickey. For now, the trio has been playing the odd date here and there in the states, but shortly they will be heading out on tour in Europe.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk