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October 2007

Matthew Shipp
Piano Vortex

Matthew Shipp’s large discography shows him to be a committed seeker who trusts his muse even at her most hermetic and perverse. Perhaps his history of nerve and sincerity should entitle him to some benefit of the doubt. But even music that follows no logic but its own should offer mysteries that, if not beautiful, are at least interesting. The eight Shipp compositions for trio here, in their halting, spasmodic randomness, with three players pursuing separate paths according to impenetrable impulses, are excruciatingly tedious.

“Sliding Through Space” is representative, with Shipp’s piano repeating itself endlessly and Joe Morris’ arco bass scraping like chalk on a blackboard. So is the title track, an arbitrary collection of minimalist oddities. One man’s vortex is another man’s stasis.

The sound quality of this new recording is inexcusable: boomy on Morris’ bass, dull and distant on Shipp’s piano, and all but inaudible on Whit Dickey’s drums. But if Dickey, like Shipp and Morris, is only meandering down blind alleys, it is a mercy that we can’t hear him.

Originally published in October 2007
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