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Matthew Shipp: Codebreaker (Tao Forms)

A review of the pianist's latest solo album, which features liner notes, in the form of poetry from Mia Hansford

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Matthew Shipp: Codebreaker
The cover of Codebreaker by Matthew Shipp

Matthew Shipp’s new album (I’m guessing even he doesn’t know the number of this release) showcases solo piano, and liner notes, in the form of poetry from Mia Hansford. This technically renders the release a collaboration, although the poetry never features over the music on the disc and, of course, the music doesn’t make its way onto the packaging. You read, listen, listen, read, put the two together across your creative corpus callosum.

Shipp’s playing the straight line between Bud Powell and Bill Evans; a line not often drawn, but then again, he wouldn’t be Matthew Shipp without new designs on the map. More specifically, a “pyramid” with Evans, Powell, and Shipp at its corners. He’s bouncing around in there like a spirit at Giza, but you have to strap on headphones to follow his tracers.

As for the poetry, I’ll try not to spoil too much of it here, but it comes arranged one verse for each of the set’s 11 cuts; matching intent on print to intent in audio proves another vector to the “codebreaker” notion. To pick an easy thread, “Green Man,” the one cut with plenty of pounding piano repetition, gets this for a kiss-off line: “A chord, insisting, building toward its own silence.” Elsewhere, not easy at all, which suits Shipp, and presumably Hansford. They want you to keep working on this one with awe and shock, like the still-unsolved fourth section of “Kryptos” at CIA headquarters. And in an age where educated people no longer have to read (or even listen?), I’ll lend my voice to the spirit—of passion—in such pursuit.

Learn more about Codebreaker on Amazon & Apple Music!

Matthew Shipp and Simplicity Itself