You can almost forgive someone for mistaking this for “cool traditional jazz.” Shipp’s piano trio frequently slips into some standard-sounding club-jazz soloing, with brisk, bright keys and deliciously wooden thickness to Joe Morris’ bass plucking. Whit Dickey on drums adds a chattery jazz feel and some nice cymbals rhythms.
But this is still Matthew Shipp, even minus the electronica dabblings he’s worked on in the last decade. On “Quantum Waves,” he sledgehammers the low notes, while the standards, “There Will Never Be Another You” and “Someday My Prince Will Come,” get the flying-off-the-road free-jazz treatment. “Roe” is catchy, but its sinister low-register melody is less cocktail hour and more SxSW; same with the creeping rainy-day comfort of “Mel Chi 2.” And then you’ve got the band just spouting large on “Zo Number 2.”
Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music is like a brick wall, and to some listeners probably just as opaque. Seemingly endless matrices of nonrepeating pokes and stabs, one clearly discrete note after another, makes for an abstract kind of march that really stands out when, say, played during a radio show. Everything slams to a halt while the beat pulses on.
There’s a lot going on under the surface, though, and a listen to the full 30- or even 90-minute pieces on Rastascan‘s Six Compositions (GTM) 2001 reveals passages of passionate, jazzy soloing and playful individual improv. You can lose yourself wandering the magnetic fields of the pulse.
But that’s with 10 players; how does GTM translate to just two? It turns out, those freer moments stand out even more, as Braxton and Brenders work through lots of mood changes. They’ll play in composed unison for a minute or two — rigid, then free, then fast, then a slow break then fast again … and then shift into “soloing,” or at least a looser, improv-spiced passage. Moods and speeds can change every couple of minutes. It’s like a series of tricks joined together with brief improv periods, and it can be engrossing.
Toronto (Duets) is a 2-CD set, one composition per CD. Disk 1 is noticeably faster and perkier overall, but Disk 2 is equally rewarding, with some nice gentle improvising in the quieter spaces.