|David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo
Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004 (AUM Fidelity)
|Bobby Kapp & Matthew Shipp
Cactus (Northern Spy)
|Matthew Shipp Trio
Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
“[D]uring the entire 17-year period we worked together, we felt like we were on a mission. Every performance we felt like we were changing the world and lighting up the stars.” Those words come from Matthew Shipp’s liner notes for Live in Sant’Anna Arresi 2004, and reflect on his tenure in David S. Ware’s quartet. The band’s large discography bears witness to the shared intensity between the pianist and the saxophonist, along with bassist William Parker and various drummers. This performance, recorded in Sardinia, offers a more intimate portrait of these close friends and collaborators, as they hit the stage with a high level of energy and sustain it for 46 minutes.
In his rugged, brawny tenor tone, Ware dissects bluesy melodic fragments, pops out some low overtones and squeals passionately in the upper register of his horn. What makes him unique is how he incorporates all of it into one performance. After an array of moments both thoughtful and visceral, he cues a climax in “Tao Flow, Pt. 1,” sounding like a foghorn and growling for 60 majestic seconds. In the second segment of “Tao Flow” (essentially one performance banded into two tracks), he uses his altissimo skills to run through a speedy melodic lick rather than simply shrieking. Whatever Ware does, Shipp meets him on equal ground. The pianist adds thunder for reinforcement or carves out a tempo with walking left-hand figures and boppish chords in the right, changing time signatures or rhythms as needed. For the four-minute “Encore,” the duo trades fours in their own way. Ware has the final word, quoting “Wade in the Water,” to make sure the spirit is felt by all listeners. It’s a wild performance, but it’s not without beauty.