Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Pastoral Composure

People who have the limited perspective of pianist Matthew Shipp’s musicality as being mostly in the “ecstatic jazz” vein, will be surprised at how naturally “in” some of Pastoral Composure is. On the mid-tempo burn of “Visions,” Shipp lays slightly behind the beat and burrows deep in a soul-jazz vibe, while trumpeter Roy Campbell spits out melodies that suggest vintage Freddie Hubbard. And although “Gesture” is comparatively more oblique thanks to William Parker’s arco bass and Gerald Cleaver’s strident military rhythms, it swings with a samba groove via Shipp’s left hand. Both songs have an edginess to them that’s mostly due to the understandable expectation that Shipp may veer off into deconstruction bliss at any moment.

The fractured rays of aural light that people normally associate with Shipp are elegantly illuminated on the solo recital of Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss.” Shipp initially approaches the melody in a leisurely, yet concise, manner, but as the reading progresses the mood becomes more foreboding as Shipp slyly drops bombs of low-end tone clusters and nervy melodic turnarounds. His take on the French traditional song “Frere Jacques” doesn’t quite conjure the same magic as “Prelude to a Kiss,” but Campbell’s wry smearing of the melody and Shipp’s thunderous series of notes make a festive listen that could seem as an insider joke on European jazz.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.