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Published: 2004/01/27
by Jeremy Welsh

Blue Series Continuum: The Sorcerer Sessions – Matthew Shipp and various artists

Thirsty Ear 57137 2

As the world rapidly grows smaller, cultural differences are becoming

more and more blurred. This blurring is clearly visible in art as well

as in music. Artists find ways to creatively blend styles and techniques

from all corners of the globe; in a post-modern world, the goal no

longer seems to be innovation within a narrow scope or field but rather

the creative interpretation of existing traditions.

In music, one can look to the music of John Zorn as he blends

traditional Jewish songs with avant-garde soundtracks and heavy squonks

and squeaks. Or you could hear the creative worldly dance music of the

Tabla Beat Science and the Afro-Celt Sound System. On his new release in

the Blue Series Continuum on Thirsty Ear records, Sorcerer Sessions,

Matthew Shipp does not rely on simple, dance-ready grooves to keep the

listener interested. Instead, he builds off of his classical leanings

and his unique supporting cast to create a collection of

minimal-sounding tracks. The violin-work of Daniel Bernard Roumain

stands out the clearest, supporting Shipp's classical playing. Evan

Ziporyn couples well with the violin on clarinet and bass clarinet.

Other musicians include Gerald Cleaver on drums and Shipp-regulars

William Parker on bass, and FLAM on programming and synthesizers.

For all of the unique twists and turns that Shipp and company gives the

listener, the album still is rather flat and uninteresting. It starts

off well enough with the song "Pulsar." Shipp begins with a simple,

melancholy melody, and is joined by Parker on bass, Ziporyn first on

bass clarinet then on clarinet, and finally Roumain on violin. The

instruments combine to create a French-like sound, similar to the Tin

Hat Trio's The Rodeo Eroded. But, from there, any sense of cohesion

dissolves. The eponymous "Keystroke" seems to make some commentary on

current society with a computer keyboard acting as percussion — the

keystrokes become a distraction along with the random notes of the

musicians. Like with "Pulsar," "Lightforms" is another melancholy piece —

this time, the swirling mist of static hovers over the song. "Urban

Shadows" utilizes a sample of what sounds like a police radio and cars

speeding by as Cleaver and Parker lay down a drum-and-bass groove.

Roumain soars overhead on his violin much like Jerry Goodman's work with

the Mahavishnu Orchestra. "Invisible Steps" might be the closest track to

a "jazz song" that the album offers — Shipp playing a melody on piano as

the bass supports and the clarinet harmonizes. But even this song does

not stay coherent.

The use of the word "Sessions" in the title to the latest release by

Matthew Shipp is fitting. The album does not play as a cohesive piece;

rather, it is a loose collection of tracks, none of which seem to make a

complete thought. Shipp should be applauded for continuing to mix genres

in the quest for the "new," possibly commenting on technology and

society in an obscure way. The listener just needs to be open to a

discordant and unstructured collection of tracks.

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