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Harmony and Abyss by Matthew Shipp

Continuing the Blue Series, Thirsty Ear once again has released a superb recording with keyboard artist, pianist and composer Matthew Shipp at the helm. Performing with him are William Parker on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums and FLAM doing one hell of a job on electronics. The recording is entitled HARMONY & ABYSS.

In the beginning was a spark, in the beginning was the ignition, in the beginning was the beginning of an involuntary process of getting it all together. Taking the process apart is a daunting task. Scientists have been working at it for centuries. Shipp, however, has used 43 minutes to open up a musical version of the story of origins of the universe, human beings, and eventually a culture of the sensible and that which is not.

The music is simple. It has to be due to the subject matter. Shipp’s overriding consciousness penetrates every slice of the record. His propensity for chordal repetition exudes itself especially in the bass end of the piano keyboard. He gives himself the license to take a completely innocent childlike approach to everything; with that, his music evolves as full and rich, rhythmically charged and unmistakably steadfast. Shipp creates and directs the atmosphere and as a result becomes the atmosphere. Shipp removed would deconstruct the DNA, would take the flavor out of Oparin’s soup. The atmosphere radiates mystery and volume; the melodies, when in existence, manufacture themselves. The players with Shipp stay close. They are bound together inextricably to clarify and make known that which is not known.

The music is dense. The electronics make it so. But each acoustic instrument has its place in the defining order. The piano most often conducts the orchestration. Parker is heard clearly whether he is in front of the music or in the backdrop; Cleaver’s precise and totally grooving drumming is evident in the same manner. The bass and drums rise and fall as the music swells from abstraction to a completely traditional R&B signature. The dynamics do not really oppose each other, but encourage motion. Subtlety appears in the form of the slight of hand, the magic of the story---how the imagination of the universe essentially plays out. Darkness, dungeons, castles, shadows, light, some playfulness and delight. Therein lies the harmony and not only for the reason that one instrument plays in harmonic relation to the other but also because conceptually a peace once reigned before mutations spun off the seminal molds to replicate to the point of a grand mishap.

But God brought on the floods that lasted for 40 days and 40 nights and after that no more evil would ever exist again. So, is the abyss really hell? Or is it the end of all potential for harm and tragedy, an embryonic revelation for rebuilding what was swept away, a rebuilding that permits an institution of intense intellect and moral fortitude? Maybe it is both. Maybe both have to exist, inescapably.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Matthew Shipp
  • CD Title: Harmony and Abyss
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Thirsty Ear
  • Musicians: Matthew Shipp (piano & synthesizer), William Parker (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums), FLAM (programming-drums & synth, slicing, dicing)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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