Why Does Matthew Shipp Want To Hurt Me?

Matthew Shipp — 4D (Thirsty Ear, 2010)

It’s like an assault sometimes, like being showered in pebbles. Like losing a snowball fight.

Shipp’s latest solo piano album is full of stormy moments. Lots of low-register rumblings that he loves.  And when he gets into it, he starts just hurling chords and notes at you.  Even when his playing isn’t fast, it’s got force, and even the slow tracks can feel relentless.

There are even standards on here, like “Autumn Leaves” or “What Is This Thing Called Love,” done big and stormy, attack mode. It’s a bull-in-a-china-shop effect: Stomping jazz that’s too big for its surroundings, causing earth shaking and property damage when all it’s really doing is having a good time.

Some of what he does is just plain punk; an ADD-blizzard rendering of “Frere Jacques” seems to hammer that point home.

And yet so many tracks on here I’d describe as “jazzy.”  They’ve got the right four-note harmonies and, on “Blue Web in Space,” even a generous helping of blue notes. Some even swing. But they’re densely packed. Ideas flicker by like hummingbirds, stopping in one place, abruptly buzzing to the next.  Shipp’s left hand carves out chords while the right hand responds in kind with clusters of single notes, densely packed and rapidly executed.

4D is as cerebral as Shipp has ever been, but he’s still not above having moments of wild abandon.  Oh, and there’s also “Greensleeves.” I won’t spoil that one for you.