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Apostolic Polyphony by Andrew Barker Matthew Shipp and Charles Waters

Drimala Records has reached the length of a strong furlong to a finishing line with its release, APOSTOLIC POLYPHONY, performed by Andrew Barker, drums, Matthew Shipp, piano, and Charles Waters, B-flat clarinet and alto saxophone.

The conceptual density of the recording is awe-inspiring. It provides an emotional sensibility to chew on, to seize with exuberance. The apostles in the tradition of the Bible were sanctioned by Christ to carry His word. In a corresponding metaphor, this beautifully molded trio carries the word of all its predecessors in terms of its musical statement and, then, becomes the bearer of the word as is exemplified by the coda, which is the last track.

The tracks on the CD are named in seemingly non-sensical permutations of the number three to list "inventions" on the recording. The term ‘invention’ stems from J.S. Bach, who used it to describe the keyboard pieces he wrote to teach his children. The structure of Bach’s short works are single lines, each played where the hands operate individually. The genius of the works is that the independent lines develop into one melody.

These three instrumentalists improvise independently and co-dependently as is the skin and bones of the performance art. The lines move in and out of each other as would passers-by on the street ofttimes recognize each other and stop to intersect, move away from each other in opposite directions, move close to each other, slide by each other, become distant from one another, or one on top of another, back to back, front to front. The sound is contrapuntal, only slightly melodic at any one point. The music is tragic, wrenching, peaceful, unanalyzable.

Barker, the drummer, breaks a torrential first two inventions where the bass drum constantly reminds the listener of a tumultuous stream, with an abstractly rhythmic third cut. The mallet struck toms predominate, evolving into a set of brushed edges, a bowed cymbal accenting the beginning and the end. This drum cut provides a segue between Waters’ clarinet’s agonizing cries to the introduction of the alto’s more middle-range sound, which in turn gives entrance to the piano’s strongly hammered note progressions. The alto hovers in a steady orbit. The drums later joined by the piano paint a solid base on which the alto can land and from which it can take off. The clarinet comes back in to close the series of improvisations with much the same rapidity as it had played in the beginning.

Shipp opens the recording fading in with muscularly pointed repeated phrasings. Thereafter, the quality of his playing never wanes. His rhythmic mode rises and falls in runs up and down the keyboard; the unmistakably invaluable chord walls chain the listener to the seriousness of the music. Any solo tangent reveals Shipp’s unremitting relentless fervor for the keys. They are the extension of his particular mind-set, one that is extraordinarily imbued with culture and the world and desirous of altering the perception of the same through music.

The "New Testament" paradigm for a world view completes this recording. The mode is a remix of acoustics from the drums and the clarinet (and how about a set of lilting, melancholic, sounds-like, harmonica phrases), with electronic scrapes & reverberations and piano ostinatos. This is the music that follows what came before it in the largest sense. This is the music that incorporates the use of tools not available when Bach wrote. This is the point where all musics within this recording’s defined set of limits are shaped into a 21st century invention of how melodic lines can merge as one. One adamant, sacred, spiritual, art-is-life determination.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Andrew Barker Matthew Shipp and Charles Waters
  • CD Title: Apostolic Polyphony
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Drimala Records
  • Musicians: Andrew Barker (drums), Matthew Shipp (piano), Charles Waters (B-flat clarinet & alto saxophone), Shannon Fields (remixer)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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