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.