Matthew Shipp Trio, Elastic Aspects

Phil Freeman

By Phil Freeman

on 02.28.12 in Reviews
A dense, frequently breathtaking ride

The debut studio recording by pianist Matthew Shipp’s current trio, previously heard on last year’s live The Art of the Improviser, is a dense series of short, percussive vignettes on which drummer Whit Dickey is by far the least prominent contributor to the group sound. This is exactly the opposite of how the trio manifests itself live, where sets are marathon medleys and Dickey frequently battles Shipp for dominance from beginning to end. Elastic Aspects should almost be co-billed to Shipp and bassist Michael Bisio; the latter gets several solo spots (“Alternative Aspects,” “Explosive Aspects” and “Rainforest”), even opening the disc, and his thick, bowed drones roar through the album, allowing the pianist to explore intensely focused, sometimes hammering variations on his cell-like melodies. Only the album’s final track, “Elastic Eye,” is an eruption of the type Shipp is (perhaps unfairly, at this stage of his career) known for, and even there, Dickey maintains a steady, almost marching beat behind the piano’s monkish extrapolations. Elastic Aspects has the feel of a suite without explicitly linking the tracks to each other through melody or rhythm – only their titles hint at conceptual unity. However it’s heard, it’s a dense, frequently breathtaking ride.