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Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss

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It would be too easy to put down Matthew Shipp’s new album because the pianist’s latest forays into electronica don’t leave as much space for the probing, free music with which he first made his name. Of the 10 tracks on Harmony and Abyss, only two find Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver cutting loose-and one lasts less than two minutes. The rest of the time, sampled beats set up structures that are rounded out by minor-key melodies from piano, typically powerful bass bowing from Parker and atmospheric synth swirls courtesy of Shipp and co-conspirator Flam.

But slagging Harmony and Abyss for what it lacks takes a position similar to dismissing In a Silent Way for keeping Miles Davis’ trumpet playing to a minimum while atmospherics and studio manipulation take over. That attitude misses the point.

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