Matthew Shipp: Nu Bop

Matthew Shipp
Nu Bop
Thirsty Ear

Even at its freest, music retains an element of the mechanical, since improvisation is the struggle between the unexpected and the regimented. Accepting such limitations, prolific avant-garde pianist Shipp sets out to demonstrate the elasticity of dogged repetition with

Nu Bop

. Tinkering with the confines of rhythmic regularity, Shipp cordons off his recurring melodies into tiny, fenced-in pens, allowing his minimal figures to bang against the rigid patterns of drummer Guillermo Brown and programmer FLAM.

On "D's Choice," for instance, Shipp launches a five-note run, repeats it, varies the chording and rhythm slightly, and allows the interaction between Brown's drums and FLAM's clicks and whooshes to draw attention to itself. The percussion becomes the composition, then, and the piano the rhythm. In the coda, however, the melody branches off. Cymbals and electrocrashes remain steady while Shipp pokes into a tangle of dense note clusters and retrieves individual strands of melody. Even a soft interlude like "X-Ray"--in which William Parker's resonantly thumping bass chases the trill of Daniel Carter's flute--paces within a tight, secluded space, free only to sing in its chains like the sea.

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