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April 2009

Matthew Shipp Trio
Harmonic Disorder
Thirsty Ear

Closing an album with a track titled “When the Curtain Falls on the Jazz Theatre” could be construed as a political statement. For two and a half minutes, low arco bass drones and snare rolls set a mournful mood that climaxes in a wall of thundering chords. If pianist Matthew Shipp didn’t intend to make a statement about the state of jazz, he probably gave himself a chuckle when he dreamed up the title. Until then, Harmonic Disorder doesn’t exactly live up to its name. The 14 tracks occasionally sound conventional, as far as Shipp is concerned. In fact, Shipp reveals a gentle touch on the keys during “Mr. JM,” as he darts between a free fall and an argumentative Bud Powell solo.

“GNG” begins the album with a head-solo-head structure that has a loose boppish feel to it. Elsewhere he plays abstract blues (“Orb”) and two brief sketches that explore moody arpeggios and funky descending riffs (“Mel Chi 2,” “Mel Chi 1”). His take on “There Will Never Be Another You” and “Someday My Prince Will Come” are fun but not quite as strong as the originals. The former finds him playing each line of the theme briskly, which sounds a little wry. He plays the theme of “Prince” straight while bassist Joe Morris and drummer Whit Dickey scurry underneath him, making sure it never sounds too pretty. But Shipp again has shown his vast command of his instrument’s history, which he filters through his sharp perspective.

Originally published in April 2009
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