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Matthew Shipp: One

Jackson Pollock did a huge picture with the same title as this album, but it is probably coincidental. Shipp is not exactly an abstract expressionist. The 12 pieces here are miniatures rather than big paint-spattered canvases, and Shipp, while a bold thinker, is not ready to liberate himself completely from representational references. You hear fractured Monk in his forays, traces of modern European classical music and even nodes of bebop.

Shipp has been called the most important avant-garde player on his instrument since Cecil Taylor. But One, a solo acoustic-piano recital, reveals how different he is from Taylor, that Pollock of pianists. Shipp does not erupt and explode. He lays little eggs that evolve into wildly unpredictable shapes and then stop, in quick fades. “Electro Magnetism” contains snatches and fragments of many songs and even halting, searching transitions between them, all in three minutes. In “Milky Way,” a few simple phrases are posited, repeated and drained of connotations. It is all very fresh to the ear, but the epiphanies are elusive. The brevity of these pieces is challenging in itself. Each is an austere cryptic message, over before we have decoded it, followed closely by another.

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