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Matthew Shipp

Biography by Joslyn Layne

With his unique and recognizable style, pianist Matthew Shipp worked and recorded vigorously during the 1990s, creating music in which free jazz and modern classical intertwine. He first became known in the early ’90s as the pianist in the David S. Ware Quartet, and soon began leading his own dates — most often including Ware bandmate and leading bassist William Parker — and recording a number of duets with a variety of musicians, from the legendary Roscoe Mitchell to violinist Mat Maneri, who began appearing on recordings in the 1990s. Through his range of live and recorded performances and unswerving individual development, Shipp came to be regarded as a prolific and respected voice in creative music by the decade’s close.

Born in the 1960s and raised in Wilmington, DE, Shipp grew up around ’50s jazz recordings. He began playing piano at the young age of five, and decided to focus on jazz by the time he was 12. Shipp played on a Fender Rhodes in rock bands while privately devouring recordings by a variety of jazz players. His first mentor was a man in his hometown named Sunyata, who had an enthusiasm for a variety of studies in addition to music. Shipp later studied music theory and improvisation under Clifford Brown’s teacher Robert “Boisey” Lawrey, as well as classical piano and bass clarinet for the school band. After one year at the University of Delaware, Shipp left and took lessons with Dennis Sandole for a short time, after which he attended the New England Conservatory of Music for two years.

Shipp moved to N.Y.C. in 1984 and soon met bassist William Parker, among others. Both were playing with tenor saxophonist Ware by 1989. Meanwhile, Shipp had debuted as a recording artist in a duo with alto player Rob Brown on Sonic Explorations, recorded in November 1987 and February 1988. Shipp married singer Delia Scaife around 1990. He then went on to lead his own trio with Parker and drummers Whit Dickey and Susie Ibarra. Shipp has led dates for a number of labels, including FMP, No More, Eremite, Thirsty Ear, Silkheart, and more.

In 2000, Shipp began acting as curator for Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series. This excellent series hosted a number of Shipp’s own recordings, as well as the recordings of William Parker, Tim Berne, Roy Campbell, Craig Taborn, Spring Heel Jack, and Mat Maneri. The following year saw the release of Nu Bop, an exploration into traditional jazz, followed closely by its 2003 counterpart, Equilibrium. In 2004 Shipp released Harmony and Abyss, a meditation on repetitive melodic and harmonic structures. One arrived in January 2006 and Piano Vortex followed a year later. 4D, featuring Shipp on solo piano, was released early in 2010. ### booking: http://gpfabe.eu