The Matthew Shipp Trio completed its two-night stand at The Jazz Standard on leap-day, guiding those who attended through a complex, musical journey. The Trio, with Whit Dickey on drums and Michael Bisio on bass, is touring in support of their latest effort Elastic Aspects, which was released a day earlier.
As is the case with Free/Experimental Jazz, the set takes the form of a single set-long journey as opposed to traditional individual compositions. To the casual listener, the intensity and precision present in Shipp's playing appears to contain 20 to 30 notes for every note he does not play. Sections containing standardized measures quickly are quickly constructed and then promptly deconstructed, often remaining for a few additional bars within the overall composition.
At times, Shipp draped himself across the desk of the piano while Bisio or Dickey took the reins of the exploration, emulating someone who used every last drop of their being to find his way through the maze of notes his hands unleashed. Moments of controlled chaos followed respites for Shipp, as he alternated between plucking the strings of the piano and unleashing similar phrases on the keys themselves. One section led off with what appeared to be a tease from the theme from “Close Encounters” before delving back into the main composition.
While the notes often came in furious bursts, most passages exuded a subtle and gentle quality less about sheer syncopation and more about the notes which lie in between. The journey seemed to embody the early moments of our primal existence when humans relied upon music for communication and survival. A unique musical experience, the set as a whole featured the exact number of notes needed to express the trio's full breadth.