This Guy Who Keeps Hanging Out With Matthew Shipp

May 27, 2018 at 9:47 am 2 comments

Toxic [Mat Walerian, Matthew Shipp, and William Parker] — This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (ESP-Disk, 2017)

walerian-toxicPolish woodwind player Mat Walerian has hit the radar in the last three years, thanks to his association with Matthew Shipp. Walerian and Shipp have appeared together on a clutch of ESP-Disk albums: a duo (calling themselves The Uppercut), a trio with drummer Hamid Drake (called Jungle), and Shipp’s recent quartet album, Sonic Fiction.

My introduction to Walerian was the trio Toxic, with Shipp bassist William Parker. You’d expect the album to excel anyway, but I find myself savoring the sections where Walerian sits out, leaving the Shipp-Parker duo that’s been working together since the ’90s. On “The Breakfast Club, Day 1,” they’re in a particularly casual, unhurried mode, stepping briskly but not urgently. It’s as if the weight of the years is gone, and they can be themselves without having to prove themselves.

But this is supposed to be about Walerian, and ESP-Disk’s seeming determination to make him famous. He’s worth the effort. Playing mostly saxes and clarinets, Walerian adeptly combines the jazz tradition with the new thing, playing with an easy, unforced confidence. He shifts gears smoothly and — with this trio at least — fits comfortably into the flow.

“The Breakfast Club, Day 1” is a good example, where his sax is in an avant-romantic mode: sweet lines of melody that swerve into brief overblown squeals or tiny bits of free rambling. It’s an easy and confident mood that sets up the Shipp-Parker passage that I enjoyed so much.

The title track has more in that vein, on clarinet, with Walerian mixing old-timey motifs and a pensively swingy feel.

I’m making the album sound happy-go-lucky, but of course there’s Shipp, adding ice-block chords and low-register piano rumbles. He also adds a light touch on “Peace and Respect” supporting Walerian’s bass clarinet with jazzy chord blips — and, later, with comping on the organ, apparently Shipp’s first recording on that instrument. Actually, that track gets happy as well, with the organ doing its sustained-chord thing and Parker’s bass providing a cool swing.

For a complete departure, “Lesson” opens with a double-flute duet (Parker on shakuhachi alongside Walerian’s western flute). The meditative space unfolds slowly, colored by Shipp’s careful splashes. Parker’s bass eventually arrives, patiently plucking notes in an unaccompanied zen atmosphere.

And if you’re looking for a full dose of Shipp, “The Breakfast Club, Day 2” has that stern hammering, sustain pedal fully down, as Walerian, dancing a lot more to the outside, still finds ways to carve melody from the wall of sound. But even that one comes to a swingy conclusion.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joseph Brenner  |  June 2, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Hm… I need to get over to Amoeba…

  • 2. mat walerian  |  June 13, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    2010 I think – Matthew appears as a special guest with mat walerian trio – after the qurtet setting, first gig we ever played, Matthew says he liked most the part we were playing a duo. Later that year I get invitation for a festival – Matthew suggests we play a duo – basically that was his idea, he invited me – we did a duo tour with around 7-8 concerts – second of them was released as a record – also later Matthew suggested we play as a quartet with his trio back then (Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey) – it was in 2012. I’m working with Hamid since 2010 – we met for the first time in 2008 – we played around 4 different projects before – also that was Hamid who invited me to do a project – so basically duo with piano was Matthews idea as well as me joining his trio to do a quartet – 7 years ago – I put together what we worked out with Hamid (4 projects) and Matthew (3 projects) and Jungle appeared. Also give me an example of similar recording to Uppercut, Jungle or Toxic – recording including Matthew, William and Hamid that presents similar narration, flow and sonic qualities – plus check the press I got for this (matwalerian.com -> press). Do your homework son, before you call me ‘guy who keeps hanging out with…’ – these are my projects, my music and my conception – do your homework son.

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