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Matthew Shipp: Before the World

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The deeply thoughtful pianist Matthew Shipp has quickly risen to the rank of keeper of the free improvisation piano flame. This 1995 solo recital was captured in concert in Berlin and amply displays his enormous facility at the keyboard. From a ripple to a scream, Shipp is quite literally all over the piano, though he never chooses to overwhelm with simple technique just for the sake of illustrating his capacity.

The pieces, all improvisations on the moment, are labeled simply #1-#5 and vary in length from 3:42 to 32:44, and for the most part should be taken in individual slices so as to best savor Shipp’s work. He varies the mood from the dense brooding of #1 to the lighter, more playful mode of the follow-up selection.