Any attempt at trying to categorize the music on the newest CD released by pianist Matthew Shipp, Nu Bop, would be an exercise in futility. This recording, a continuation of Shipp’s "blue series" IS music in the best of the jazz tradition, with tight polyrhythmic grooves, inventive compositions and creative improvisations. There are sounds that are typically NOT found in the mainstream of jazz on Nu Bop--sounds that perhaps would be more familiar in incarnations of other modern musical style streams. These sounds and approaches to making music are an asset to Shipp’s musical product however, rather than what those unfamiliar with more "cutting edge" sounds in jazz may perceive as a liability to America’s only original art form.
Each of the nine compositions on the recording is a unique sonic adventure. Shipp utilizes the resources of the typical jazz quartet (supplemented with synthesizers and programmed sounds) and makes music in drawing upon unique melodic and rhythmically compelling ideas. Shipp’s technically accomplished and artistic abilities at the acoustic piano are very evident. He draws very different sounds from his instrument than one would typically expect from a jazz pianist. As a composer, Shipp’s music never becomes overly repetitive, nor suffers any bland sameness from one composition to the next. The sidemen on Nu Bop also demonstrate a highly accomplished level of musicianship and artistry in realizing Shipp’s musical vision.
The only negative criticism of Nu Bop is that there is only about 40 minutes of music on the CD. While not to advocate sacrificing quality for quantity, with the price of a single compact disc approaching twenty dollars, it would be more accommodating to the music consumer if artists and record companies would give listeners a higher ratio of music in proportion to their purchasing dollar.
Despite relative brevity of the recording there is certainly no compromise in the quality of the musical product. Matthew Shipp has recorded excellent thought provoking, artistically sophisticated music. Nu Bop would be a welcome addition to anyone’s jazz CD collection.