Sonic Fiction

Sonic Fiction

by Matthew Shipp


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One would be hard-pressed to find a Matthew Shipp quartet recording as democratically executed as Sonic Fiction, and there are several reasons to speculate why. Foremost is that drummer Whit Dickey and bassist Michael Bisio have been with the pianist a long time. The newcomer in this outfit is Polish saxophonist and reed player Mat Walerian. He and the pianist issued the duo recording Live at Okuden as the Uppercut in 2015, followed by two Walerian-led dates in trios with drummer Hamid Drake and bassist William Parker, respectively. Sonic Fiction is offered as a framework of dialogic expression, a music of ideas communicated, exchanged, and put forth directly and intimately. With the exception of the closing title track, most of the remaining ten pieces are of middling length at four and six minutes. Opener "First Steps" offers a smoky, bluesy atmosphere with Shipp emerging from the middle register with skeletal chord voicings accompanied by Walerian's dark alto, followed by Dickey's shimmering cymbals and Bisio's arco bass. It introduces "Blues Addition" with Shipp alternating between shadowy Ellingtonia and striated Monk harmonics with lush surprises between -- including quotes from tunes "St James Infirmary," "If I Only Had a Brain," and other standards while focusing his left hand on a series of rumbling chords. He drops out and Walerian's clarinet replaces him, soulfully stretching the blues frame to the margin without dissembling it. Bisio's bassline, rather than merely walk the changes, finds spaces between his lines, adding fills, codas, chords, and counterpoint. "The Station" is a solo piece for clarinet; it's expansive, angular, and at times otherworldly. It's followed by the groupthink in "Lines of Energy," a knotty, angular number that works off spontaneous contrapuntal statements by each of the quartet's members while exuding a mutant swing. Shipp's "Energy Flow" is a gorgeous solo piece built on chord voicings and scalar inquiries that investigate the seams in each and melds them fugue-wise. "The Problem of Jazz" finds Dickey playing a fleet yet repetitive bop phraseology. It only changes when he's joined by Walerian and Dickey, who counter with energetic improvisation and slip in new schemas. Bisio adds a slowly walking blues solo over the last two minutes to carry it out. The 11-plus-minute title track spends its first three investigating partial thematic ideas contrasted with spiky improvisation before Shipp and Walerian touch on the blues for a moment. Dickey and Bisio's arco bass enters and the work fluctuates via tensions that involve everything from modal and free improvisation; it never loses its focus or relents in its tension, building drive until it reaches its stated intent as a fingerpopping, angular, 21st century re-imagining of bop. Sonic Fiction marks a new phase for Shipp as its evolves from his previous outings with Walerian (and his numerous dates with saxophonist Ivo Perelman on Leo) toward a shared multivalent lingual space where musical equations are stated, re-examined, and ultimately balanced before they emerge as a new sonic terrain.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/02/2018
Label: Esp Disk Ltd.
UPC: 0825481501828
catalogNumber: 5018
Rank: 99780

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