By Ivana Ng | Published October 2021
On pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Whit Dickey’s latest recording, Reels, the duo explores place and texture across 10 pieces that run the gamut from tonal jazz to swinging bebop and blues-forward improvisation. They warm up with furtive piano lines and scattered percussion in “Lattice” before diving into driving melodic piano and chaotic swing in “Cosmic Train,” a song that previously appeared on a Burning Ambulance compilation disc in 2020 under the title “Staircase.”
Dickey’s drums seamlessly integrate with Shipp’s changing motifs, his the artfulness is most palpable on “Hold Tight,” a sprightly-yet-cerebral piece with textural hi-hat beats and tonal snare wrapped around crescendoing piano melodies. On “Moon Garden,” a sparse and industrial tune, Dickey’s pacing is deliberate and expressive, forcing Shipp’s languorous piano lines into formation and harkening back to the reticent notes of “Lattice.”
Shipp and Dickey’s creative partnership throughout the record is tightly integrated, but they do take turns exploring solo improvisation.
Taken together, the songs on Reels constitute a conversation that oscillates between frenetic discourse, synergetic exchanges and shared silences. “Silent Ice” is in dialogue with “Moon Garden,” similarly somber. “Fire Dance” and “Vector,” on the other hand, are frenetic and unrelenting, with swinging motifs and driving rhythms. Reels illustrates the intimate and expansive rapport that Shipp and Dickey have developed over three decades, one methodical and intuitive.
Reels: Lattice; Cosmic Train; Hold Tight; Moon Garden; Fire Dance; Vector; Magma; Silent Ice; Reels; Icing. (56:02)
Personnel: Kevin Hays, piano; Bob Franceschini, tenor and soprano saxophone; Orlando Le Fleming, bass; Obed Calvaire, drums.
Ordering Info: chesky.com