MATTHEW SHIPP — Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zurich (review)

MATTHEW SHIPP — Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zurich album cover Live album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
With such an abundance of talented jazz pianists these days, its hard for anyone to rise above the pack, but more than likely, as we move forward in time, music history will be very kind to Matthew Shipp. A powerhouse performer, Shipp’s improvisations embrace the world of modern jazz and hint at contemporary concert hall composition, while wrapping all this up into a musical language that sounds like no one else. Although Matthew is known to engage in spirited free improvisations with many stars of the free improv world, when playing on his own, his music takes on a different character, not so much free improvisation as spontaneous composition. Much like one of his favorite influences, Cecil Taylor, Shipp’s constructs pour out at a furious pace, yet always seem to contain a sort of logic found in the best of contemporary composers. It’s in his solo works that the true mind of Shipp is able to take shape, and that is one of the many things that make “Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zurich” such a special offering, this is Matthew all by himself in a live setting, a pure un-distilled outpouring from a modern genius.

In his own words, Shipp claims that while he was developing his musical language, he decided to ignore the popular post-bop trio of Bill Evans, Keith Jarret and Herbie Hancock, and instead focused on an older musical language of the bop and pre-bop pianists such as Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington and Art Tatum. Herein lies one of Matthew’s big differences within the modern jazz world, his playing harks back to an earlier age when the solo pianist was meant to be a mini-orchestra with a huge two handed sound that filled up space. This is not the ‘less is more’ approach of the post bop crowd, this is the ‘more is more’, and plenty more where that came from approach. As we listen to the eleven cuts on this CD, our mind becomes occupied by musical ideas that fly by at a rapid rate, yet these ideas never lose a sense of purpose, every note that is needed is there. Along with the aforementioned jazz influences, one can also hear 20th century composers such as Charles Ives, Arnold Schoenberg and Henry Cowell, but this is no pastiche approach, every influence is blended into a seamless whole.

This is an unusual concert in that Matthew does not take a break between songs, which can be a plus or a minus. The plus being that this whole concert becomes like an ocean of musical ideas to immerse yourself in, with the minus being that some of the individual songs loose their individuality as they become swamped by the entire mass of music. Two tracks in particular might have been more powerful had they stood on their own, one being the imaginative reading of the standard, “Tenderly”, in which the original melody battles with a more dissonant counter melody, and the almost romantic “Blue in Orion’, which is quite different from the other tracks. Still, with all the tracks blended, we can see how some similar devices show up in more than one piece, such as Matthew’s thunderous low end tone clusters, and his skittering two voiced scattered polyphony.

For those who have not checked him out yet, this album makes for a great introduction to the world of Matthew Shipp and comes highly recommended for fans of modern jazz, as well as fans of modern concert hall music as well.
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