Matthew Shipp

Matthew Shipp:

A Crack in the Jazz Egg

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Well yeah, go ahead and call Matthew Shipp a jazz pianist, because that in a way is precisely what he is. But, good god, he strides far outside whatever done-to-death images that expression is going to conjur, and clearly, clearly it’s time to do a little probing on that score. The NYC-based musician, who’s also worked in several decidedly non-trad jazz collaborative contexts (David S. Ware, El-P, DJ Spooky, the Maneri Ensemble, Spring Heel Jack, Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory, the William Parker Quartet, among numerous varied others), now comes with the latest in a lengthy series of tightrope walks high above craggy chasms: Shipp’s new 4D album on the essential Thirsty Ear label finds him focusing fiercely in a difficult but immensely rewarding (give it some time, please) slew of keyboard challenges that draw from familiar and arcane archives in the trad jazz idiom and splice them ‘tween overtly pointyheaded harmonic/structural densities of the Euro neo-classical and new-music territories. Matthew Shipp’s forte and relevant achievement is the ferociously intelligent way he stamps very personal points and lines on this meltdown of traditions.

BLUEFAT: Your new album is pure music, and a very exacting exploration of ideas and problem-solving. What does it say about your relationship to jazz?

I don’t have problems with the term jazz. To me, it’s a label which is necessary in the practical world, even though in the metaphysical world of making the music there are no labels, there’s just making music. But being a pragmatist, I can understand that you’ve got to have a part of the record store to put the album in. As for my relationship to jazz, I guess I’m a jazz musician –– I’m an African American improvisational musician, and that’s been defined as “jazz” if you do that, so…


Photo: Lorna Lentini