Thursday, August 18, 2022

Piano Trios!! (Part 3): Matthew Shipp, Steve Boudreau, Manel Fortià

  The Matthew Shipp Trio, with pianist Shipp, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker, first recorded in 2015, with The Conduct of Jazz on the Thirsty Ear label. Since then, three more CDs as a trio have appeared, and they’ve also recorded with saxophonist Rich Halley (on Terra Incognita and The Shape Of Things, both on Halley’s Pine Eagle imprint) and with flutist Nicole Mitchell (All Things Are on Rogue Art). The latest trio release is the magnificent World Construct, where this unit’s power, delicacy, and sublimely interactive approach to Shipp’s compositions are deftly and constructively balanced. The eleven tunes range in length from under two minutes to over ten minutes. Some pieces, like the brief opening track, Tangible, hint at the blues. The meditative Sustained Construct, a solo piano piece, continues with a late-night bluesy feeling, but considerably more abstract. With Spine, we move into even freer territory, with assertive bass by Bisio and careful commentary by Baker. Shipp and Bisio spend most of the four minutes provoking one another in an extended dialogue. The tempo of Jazz Posture is pretty fast, with Shipp working across the full range of the piano as he unleashes long convoluted lines. Fast fingers from Bisio and a liberated Baker drive him along and keep the momentum going when the piano drops out for a spell. Beyond Understanding is both simple and mysterious, with Baker’s cymbals and Bisio’s deep tones hovering around Shipp’s skeletal melodies. The slightly meandering free movement of Talk Power is rather lovely, a carefully caressed melody with rhapsodic bass and minimalist drumming. At three and a half minutes, the music is a prime example of the taut constraint of the trio’s interactivity and their essentially ego-less unity of intent. It doesn’t surprise me that this revelation comes at the midpoint of this carefully sequenced disc, which juxtaposes changes in tempo to achieve an emotional arc to the full hour. Talk Power is followed by the explosive Abandoned, with an attack that’s strong enough to blow you out of your seat even if you’re expecting it. The band’s triologue continues with the less-fearsome A Mysterious State, with both Shipp on piano and Baker mostly on snare drum getting downright obsessive as Bisio’s bass dances all around them. Stop the World, not at all an unusual sentiment in this turbulent era, is a somber dialogue for piano and bass, with Bisio playing a powerfully heartfelt solo against Shipp’s sparse chording. Sly Glance is funky and in the pocket, which comes as a bit of surprise this late in the program, but definitely a welcome interlude. It tells me that they’re still having some fun with the music, even in the middle of a pandemic. The finale is the title track, and the longest piece. It opens with Shipp alone at the piano in a classical vein, and soon joined by Bisio and then Baker to embark on a deeply engrossing extended musical conversation. This driving upbeat number features Baker’s spectacular brushwork, Bisio’s patient throb, and Shipp’s endlessly flowing lines. World Construct is an instant classic, and very highly recommended. 

ESP-Disk ESP 5059; Matthew Shipp (p) Michael Bisio (b) Newman Taylor Baker (d); Brooklyn, NY, April 15, 2021; Tangible/ Sustained Construct/ Spine/ Jazz Posture/ Beyond Understanding/ Talk Power/ Abandoned/ A Mysterious State/ Stop the World/ Sly Glance/ World Construct; 58:12.

Canadian pianist and composer Steve Boudreau leads his trio with bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas through nine original tunes and a Wayne Shorter piece on the distinctly pleasurable Cherished Possessions. There’s an easy-going charm to Boudreau’s songs and playing, and with Vedady and Doxas in elegant and engaged support, you can’t go wrong. Boudreau’s limber pianism and bright melodies give the trio plenty to work with. Especially fine are the title track, which opens the date with a prime example of the sonic pleasures that await you over the rest of the disc, the touching ballad Words of Hope, the buoyant and upbeat Rolling Oil, and the dancing rhythms of Charlie’s Family Reunion, which sounds like it was quite a party. Shorter’s immensely attractive Go, from Schizophrenia (a 1967 album on Blue Note) receives an effective mid-tempo treatment. Also worthy of note is the introspective Hear Wisdom. This piece is played very slowly, at a tempo that in lesser hands might drag and almost fall apart. Here the players treat the piece with just the right amount of movement and delicacy, with Vedady’s lyrical bass at the core. All in all, Cherished Possessions is a joy to listen to, and it’s warmly recommended. 
self-produced; Steve Boudreau (p) Adrian Vedady (b) Jim Doxas (d); Québec, PQ, October 2021; Cherished Possessions/ Words of Hope/ For Staff Only/ Descending Blues/ Encumbered/ Hear Wisdom/ Go/ Rolling Oil/ Isobel/ Charlie's Family Reunion; 47:35.

When I started listening to Despertar, I was immediately grabbed by the soulful bass of Manel Fortià, evoking Charlie Haden as he played the introduction to Dormir, the brief opening track. With pianist Marco Mezquida and drummer Raphaël Pannier alongside, Fortià enjoys thoroughly dynamic and sympathetic support for this suite of original compositions. The CD is structured as a musical dream diary of New York City. The set opens with the brief Dormir (“to sleep” in English). Most of the next eight pieces reflect various aspects of the city, starting with the energetic bustle of Circular, dedicated to the JFK airport AirTrain. Other pieces are dedicated to some of New York’s vibrant neighborhoods, including Harlem (Espiritual), Astoria (Saudades), and Jackson Heights (the bouncy Simple). For just one track, El Día Después, the dream returns to Spain and La Rambla de Barcelona. Otherwise, we treated to the lasting impressions of Fortià from his stay in the city between 2016 and 2020. And then Despertar, and he awakens with a wistful and vaguely optimistic theme that morphs into a more anthemic style. Fortià has worked with both Mezquida and Pannier before, but on separate projects. United here, they form an ideal vehicle for Fortià’s vigorous and varied compositions. Track after track reveals the workings of a restless musical mind brought to an exciting realization by this finely honed trio. A triumph, and heartily recommended. 
Segell Microscopi; Manel Fortià (p) Marco Mezquida (b) Raphaël Pannier (d); Girona, Spain, no dates indicated; Dormir/ Circular/ Saudades/ Espiritual/ El Día Después/ Crescente/ Aires de Libertad/ Simple/ Despertar; 54:13.

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