MATTHEW SHIPP Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear) Rating: NNN
Ever since he began curating Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, Matthew Shipp has been trying to find common ground between his avant jazz piano playing and more beat-oriented music. Projects with junglists like Spring Heel Jack were very explicit in their fusion. Equilibrium is a much more subtle but no less powerful statement. Slipping programmed beats between the live drum breaks of Gerald Cleaver, Shipp and his quintet sketch out edgy, vibe-driven jazz that's at once modern and classic. The playing, particularly Shipp's and long-time sideman William Parker's, is as assured as ever. Less successful are Shipp's dreamy interludes that verge on the dreary. Presumably, that won't be an issue in the next phase of Shipp's experiments, featuring hiphop crew Anti-Pop Consortium and producer El-P.