Borrowing from the idea of romantic song, otherwise known as classical German “lieder,” in Cosmic Lieder, alto sax player Darius Jones and pianist Matthew Shipp come together for their first duet. Jones is the primary voice and story-teller. In the most obvious sense, Shipp accompanies Jones in this recording. But the two combined share a contemporary, engaging, hip sensibility that brings out the best in both of them.
Each up-to-four-minute cut easily translates meaningfully into a song. These pieces are meant to be heard not as the examinations of great musical concepts but rather as expressive windows into a world of changes. In the recording, there seems to be as much lyricism as ‘sturm und drang,’ incongruous to the accepted lied form.
The interaction of the two musicians is inexorably intertwined. Certainly, it is in Shipp’s make-up to tend towards ostinato and hard accents, but his use of the treble end of the piano is sometimes quite animated. In keeping with Jones’ tonal focus, Shipp is not wont to lay down both resonant bass chords and light treble and mid-range tremolos and phrases in the same lied. Shipp responds to Jones’s phrasing with silence, strangely boppish configurations or elegant fluidity.
Jones defines the concept of instrumental voice without monopolizing the sonic atmosphere or splitting the sax reed.
He comes from a tradition that ranges from gospel to hot saxophone wails. In his own inimitable way, he blends this diversity into compositions which can reach extremes only to recoil into the gradual evolution of melody. His vocabulary is not unique; the way he controls its components is. His delivery captivates his genuine intention to expand sensitively on the motif at hand and bring the music into an arena that is completely palatable and, needless to say, soulful.