January 21, 2024
Space Cube Jazz - Matthew Shipp & Steve Swell
Label: RogueArt & (bandcamp)
Catalog #: ROG-0133
Location: Paris, France
Release Date: January 12, 2024
Media: double compact disc, digital download
The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House are not prolific music reviewers. We all work day jobs and we manage no more than one or two reviews each month, if we are lucky. An album has to speak to us to allocate the time for a review. That said, we have a standing disclaimer for these reviews: "Lest readers be misled, the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House do not place any great significance on the words in any of the reviews on the PPPH blog. The music exists outside these reviews and is neither magnified nor diminished by it. We are merely inclined to share good news." Disclaimers aside, we chose Space Cube Jazz for the first review of 2024 because listening to the music prompted us to do so.
We know some aspects of the wide-ranging music of Matthew Shipp fairly well. We have listened to about fifty records by him (about twenty with Ivo Perelman) and we are drawn to his duets. We have a somewhat more limited exposure to Steve Swell (although we have made an effort to expand it with the recent triple cd from Steve Swell's Fire Into Music). Space Cube Jazz served as a wonderful opportunity to hear the aspects of Shipp that we have come to love and to better introduce Steve Swell to our ears. From the first track, Flashes, we hear exactly that: flashes of brilliance in the communication between piano and trombone.
The tracks have composition credits, but the music is, to our ears, improvised. On this point, we share a quote that we liked from Clifford Allen's recent book reviewing the twenty-five albums including Shipp on RogueArt.
The instrumentation is the composition already, you've scored it just by showing up and bringing people together who know what one another's capabilities are.
The extent of improvisation and composition varies from track to track. Dark Matter possesses a melody through-out the piece that sounds composed in a more traditional manner, while most of the other tracks exhibit the sweet unpredictability of a spontaneous moods. Regardless of where the music falls on the spectrum from improvisation to composition, the tone is largely mellow and contemplative.
Our listening to both Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp is permanently tinted through a lens of their long, fruitful relationship. When we hear Ivo Perelman in duets with other pianists (for example!), we guiltily seek the same level of transparent communion of the Perelman/Shipp duet. That sort of magic doesn't happen routinely; the relationship takes time to develop. With that said, upon our first listening to Space Cube Jazz we heard hints and flashes of a transcendent sympathy. The music transported us to another dimension, where the logistics of daily living were momentarily forgotten. And on that note, we end our review.
- Clifford Allen, published in Singularity Codex: Matthew Shipp on RogueArt, RogueArt, Paris, France, 2023, p. 40.