Henry Rollins first introduced me to the music of Matthew Shipp. Thirsty Ear was marketing and distributing his label 2.13.61 Records for which Shipp was a recording artist. This was in the mid 90’s and the NY jazz scene was something I mostly read about in the papers.
Though Henry spoke with articulate passion about Shipp’s energy, drive and heightened musicianship, it was not until I attended a concert that I fully understood his power, fury and otherworldly vision. Shipp’s music was not meant to be polite, it was meant to shake, rattle and challenge your senses with volcanic explosions. And it succeeded.
After Matthew finished his obligations with 2.13.61 Records, I wanted him to record for Thirsty Ear. The driving composition of his creative intensity was unfiltered by common parlance and unfettered by standard convention. In other words, a true original, a true rarity.
In typical Shipp fashion he spent a year thinking about it and only agreed to do so if it was his last recording. That was 1999, and now, 18 years and dozens of recordings later, all of which I’ve had the pleasure of producing, those words are finally being put to rest. Matthew is exhausted but his body of work for the Blue Series will live on forever.
Shipp’s musical appetite is like no other I’ve experienced. It is insatiable, unshakable, bottomless and without peer. His stumbles turn to magical leaps; his angular lines straighten with lightening quickness only to reverse once again, defying all logic. This has been his strength and his weakness. The strength of his boundless exuberance busting through genre constructs is difficult to neatly define in monosyllabic words that are easily metabolized. His music is a journey that begs for the abandonment of scripted linear thinking. In short, you are challenged to wipe your brain and start fresh. The rewards are immense and transformative; just reboot, let go and be consumed.
This really is Matthew’s last record for Thirsty Ear. He will continue in his role as our artistic director. We are grateful, as his scope of musical understanding extends far beyond the keyboard. He loves to champion artists, helping them through what seems like an impenetrable obstacle course that is known as the music business.
We were curious if over the past eighteen years a critical narrative would emerge stating a sort of collective consciousness of reflective thinking for Matthew’s work. What we found and what you will read below was a remarkably coherent through line, which was procured from thousands of articles written about Matthew Shipp and reduced to fifteen quotes. He seems to transcend being a jazz musician, by elevating his art as an elixir, to be prescribed to heal, excite, confuse and enlighten, depending on your state of mind. Like life itself, he gives answers and spins mysteries leaving it up to us to solve or leave unresolved. It’s a soul-redefining potion I’ll always drink.
Thirsty Ear Recordings
Matthew Shipp Trio: Matthew Shipp
, piano; Michael Bisio
, bass; Newman Taylor Baker
, drumsEighteen Years of Critical Thought
(Matthew) Shipp is one of the select group of current players and composers one would have to tag essential.1
(He) boosts one of the most prolific, consistent and challenging catalogs—the pianist’s brain seems to fire on all cylinders all the time.2
Practically without parallel—Matthew Shipp is the connection between that past, present and future for jazzheads of all ages.3
His fingertips conjures music of substance and value without recourse to set piece clichés.4
Shipp’s pianism triggers an avalanche of ideas while maintaining an extraordinary beautiful rounded sound—pianism rarely conveys such lucidity of sound and clarity of thought.
Shipp sounds more crisply voiced than Cecil Taylor
and less rarefied than Keith Jarrett
—ultimately Shipp’s solos are far afield from either of these and from everyone else.5
(He) is the most dynamic and advanced of a growing number of pianists his age.6
Shipp has played out his individuality through3
decades—he can be seen as a cross between the2
giants (Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett) but he exceeds both.7
The nature of Shipp’s genius can be fully parsed—this is music that frames up a whole history of an artist, of listeners, of the artists who formed the history of the art form, of the culture and time that allowed this art form to flourish. 8 Otherworldly and enchanting it is work that holds together Satie’s meticulous minimalism and Coltrane’s chaotic maximalism in a taut, delicate balance.9
Shipp is blessed with originality and technical skill as well as humor and lightning reflexes.10
Stunning in his originality—proof of his idiosyncratic genius11
, as Matthew Shipp’s catalog expands so does our understanding of the depth and breath of his genius.12
(It) offers irrefutable proof of Shipp’s enduring mastery of the jazz idiom.13
(He) emerges as one of an increasingly rare breed: a legitimately iconoclastic lower east side bohemian artist.14
(Shipp) deserves a place of choice in the jazz piano pantheon.151
The Penguin Guide To Jazz 2
Financial Times 5
Chicago Tribune 6
The Atlantic Monthly 7
Aftenposten, Norway 8
New York Times 10
Vision of Jazz 11
The Absolute Sound 13
All About Jazz 14
New York Magazine 15