A noted boxing fan, pianist Matthew Shipp has become renowned for his pugilistic approach to the keyboard. His attack ranges from forceful chords struck with the impact of a haymaker to the jaw, to fleet, graceful lines that float like the proverbial butterfly. His insistent motifs repeat and land with the effectiveness of perfectly-timed combinations, asserting melodies as memorable as they are strident.
He’s also become infamous for sporting a boxer’s braggadocio off the bandstand, taking audacious shots at some of jazz’s most sacred cows in interviews, backed up by his own ability to create sounds that are both primal and immediate, that stick in the brain while simultaneously challenging it.
Shipp’s most frequent sparring partner in recent years has been bassist Michael Bisio, whose robust, understatedly adventurous approach is the perfect foil to the pianist’s more jarring leaps. On Shipp’s most recent CD, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear), the two are joined in a new trio by drummer Newman Taylor Baker, a veteran of bands led by innovators like Henry Threadgill, Billy Bang, and Leroy Jenkins. The album finds the trio in perfect equilibrium, at times tumultuous while at others sensitively probing and exploring, keenly delicate with a constant threat of combustion.
For Saturday’s Ars Nova Workshop-presented show at the Art Alliance, however, Shipp and Bisio will pair off for a rare duo performance, sure to exemplify the profound empathy they’ve discovered over the course of five years and more than a half dozen recordings.
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