Root of Things
Less than a year after the strong solo disc Piano Sutras, Matthew Shipp returns with his faithful trio mates (bassist Michael Bisio, drummer Whit Dickey) for another solid release. While the pianist has maintained a steadily prolific output for nearly two decades, his compositions—or points of departure—assure that he isn’t merely churning out variations of the same thing with each outing.
Live, the trio often segues compositions together for a continuous set, and while it has breaks between tracks, this studio session flows in much the same manner. The title track might arguably be Shipp’s most accessible piece yet. Its pulse flows freely as Dickey rolls and crashes under the pianist, who continually returns to a flowing opening statement with Bisio. If anyone is still convinced that Shipp doesn’t know how to swing, the walking bass and syncopated chords of “Jazz It” should prove otherwise.
Bisio and Dickey get a chance to stretch out during Shipp’s solos, but they also get a track each that largely showcases their skills in an unaccompanied setting. Dickey’s spotlight consists primarily of a mix of snare hits and cymbal crashes, loose but engaging (“Pulse Code”). Bisio’s bow work creates all manner of textures, which he skillfully alternates with plucked motifs (“Path”). “Solid Circuit” [sic] begins as a piano solo that moves at a clipped pace and is marked by equally truncated phrasing. Compared to what has preceded it, this cut sounds like the group is spinning wheels as they try to converge on a complete idea. But they still generate excitement as they make their way.