This album was among the most acclaimed music releases of 2020. What was most certainly clear to us from jump, and then affirmed by countless others writing with intelligence & passion is that this recording of one human massaging 88 keys pressing pads that strike metal string & cable toward resonance within a wooden chamber was a revelation anew from one of the most distinctly gifted artists who has ever laid hands on the instrument.
Further honing a singular cosmic musical language, Matthew Shipp begins celebrating his landmark 60th year with this new solo piano recording. The Piano Equation is also the inaugural release from TAO Forms, a new label founded by drummer-improviser-composer – and longtime Shipp collaborator – Whit Dickey.
Over more than half of his lifespan, Shipp has built up an unparalleled body of work and a wholly original musical language that only becomes more hyper-focused and distinctive with the passage of time. Shipp’s abstract eloquence is on vivid display throughout The Piano Equation, which presents him alone at the piano, brilliantly solving his higher-order musical mathematics, approaching each new unknown from unexpected vantage points as in some form of cubist algebra. Shipp builds his solo music in a cellular fashion, formed like the building blocks of human life out of disparate elements that combine and evolve in novel and fascinating forms. “There are billions of different human beings on the planet, all constituted with the same genetic material but all completely different,” he says. “All of these pieces can be generated with a different mother/father idea and the basic cellular material can unfold in billions of ways.”
Stride, swing and the avant-garde collide like so many elemental particles, the aftereffects radiating outward in increasingly complex and intricate formations. The scientific, the personal, the political and the fantastic co-exist throughout Shipp’s work, melding in the radical vocabulary that the pianist employs on the album, which speaks with its own alien yet familiar logic. Fragments of melody coalesce and transform, dissolve or shatter into kaleidoscopic reveries.
While some may have used the arrival of such a landmark occasion as their 60th anniversary of arrival here to look backwards, Shipp will spend the year continuing to move resolutely forward, further evolving a voice that is as intimately personal as it is cosmically adventurous.
* Full art & notes included as PDF booklet with Digital Album.
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After a precision liftoff in Tabasco and setting a course to travel the space ways from planet to planet, the album peels away through a wormhole just past Saturn in the eponymous track Mayan Space Station to journey through time and space in Canyons of Light. eric F