Jazz pianist Matthew Shipp's latest effort is an example of an artist truly reaching and challenging himself. In fact, this is a remarkable CD despite the fact that the always-inventive Shipp all but ignores pretty melodies and doesn't even play many solos.
With Harmony and Abyss, Shipp and company offer up one of the few combinations of jazz with hip-hop and electronica that works.
During most of the songs, Shipp isolates a few riffs or chord progressions and repeats them, varying color, mood, articulation and intent as the music flows around him. It's as if he is sampling himself to provide melodic and rhythmic accompaniment to the proceedings. Sometimes, he channels the dissonance of Cecil Taylor and occasionally the elegance of Duke Ellington.
Bassist William Parker, one of the most prolific players in avant-garde jazz, holds down the bottom, flirting with walking blues and bop and finding a natural funky groove. Drummer Gerald Cleaver might seem superfluous, with the keyboard and sampling whiz known as FLAM on board. But Cleaver's organic percussing establishes a rhythmic ground against which the master slicer and dicer brings the noise.
From the zooming atomic-particle keyboard squiggles on the opening track, "Ion," to "Blood 2 the Brain"--on which Shipp busts a melancholic move with chords that could have come out of a tune by Vince Guaraldi or Bill Evans while FLAM strings together skittering drum and bass rhythms that threaten to fall apart but always somehow adhere--this CD is an unadulterated joy.