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Matthew Shipp
NU BOP
(THIRSTY EAR)

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At first glance, the strategy on Shippís latest release is daunting: one of the most rhythmically (and otherwise) free of the post-Cecil Taylor avant-gardists (his regular running partners are saxophonist David S. Ware and bassist William Parker, who joins him here) has chosen to lock himself into the mechanized stun and stutter of hip-hop. For the most part, the heavy backbeat is laid down by drummer Guillermo E. Brown, with some help from programmer Flamís crunchy electronics. Shipp often abets the groove with heavy, two-fisted repetitive chording in the bass end of the keyboard, and you sometimes wait in vain for him to use that broad bottom as a launch pad for zingy right-hand flights (the all-bottom, no-top approach gets especially deadening as he pummels his way along in the final track, "Select Mode 2").

Still, thereís variety here: the off-center piano chords and Ornette-like funky alto of Daniel Carter on "Nu-Bop"; the abstract ballad written by Shipp for Carterís flute and Parkerís pizzicato bass, "X-Ray"; the angular-rhapsodic solo-piano piece "ZX-1." And yes, even on the "funky" numbers, Shipp sometimes breaks himself out of rhythmic prison for a little Shostakovich-plays-Bird flight of fancy or a fender-bender pile-up of dissonant chords at the end of a bumper-car chase of clusters and fractured lines.

BY JON GARELICK

Issue Date: January 31 - February 7, 2002
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