Thursday, November 16, 2017

Matthew Shipp Trio & Thoth Trio at the Andy Warhol Museum

$15 for a national touring jazz group, with a strong local opener. Imagine that: $7.50 for the Matthew Shipp Trio and $7.50 for Thoth Trio. (One could say you're paying for Shipp and getting Thoth for free, but that sort of shortchanges the locals, implying the "hey, I can't pay you but imagine the exposure you'll get" idea, which WAS NOT the case anyway). What a deal!

And people came to the Andy Warhol Museum for it, selling out the room within 30 minutes of the start of the show. I felt bad because one of my friends to whom I sent an email, telling them about it, was one of the folks who had been turned away. But it was encouraging that there were around 130 people who came out to check out the music. (The couple next to me left after about 30 minutes of Shipp's set, so maybe a few people didn't get into it, but getting bodies in seats is arguably most of the battle.)

Shipp comes to town with bassist Michael Bisio on a fairly consistent, annual basis, but it's been several years since he played here in the trio setting. And it's been 10 years since he played at the Warhol. (That 2007 appearance was a solo show.) Last Friday was the first time he came with both Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker, who has played on his last two trio discs. They sat down without a word, dove into the music and didn't stop for an hour, playing a set drawn from his original material, seguing each piece into a long suite. 

The pianist strikes the keyboard using his whole arm, making it look more physical that most pianists. Even with that method, his sound remains graceful, able to go from delicate phrases to hard thunder easily, but always with the same amount of exertion. During the snaky "Instinctive Touch" he played with head down, barely looking at the keys, still managing to product an endless flow of thoughts. 

Baker is an ideal third piece of the Shipp puzzle. Beginning on brushes, his style added an extra sound that almost served as a melodic addition to the music. Anyone who thinks this music doesn't require communication between the players would have changed their mind during a moment later in the set when Shipp and Baker hit The One together, in the middle of what sounded like wild, free bop. Listen closely and the conversation becomes clear.

The moment when Shipp pauses and Bisio gets a chance to stretch out always stands as one of the highlights of the set. The bassist offers strong support during the group interaction but his solos call attention to the grace and lyrical qualities at the root of his playing. Without an amp, and only one microphone on his instrument, Bisio filled the room (even creating a loud, but still appropriate, scrape when his bridge made contact with the mike), especially when he took the bow off of his belt (see the picture above) and drew it across the strings. 

I could only shoot Baker at the very end of the set due to the cymbal obstructing my view, and even then the blue lights in the room made it a challenge. It turns out, Baker had played with Billy Bang when he came to the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater back in 2008, which was right around the corner from where the trio stayed after this show, at the Ace Hotel.

Hopefully someday some bigshot label rep will come to town and realize that they need to release the next Thoth Trio CD. Until then, it's good to know that a sold-out crowd got to check out their set of material. Saxophonist Ben Opie told me a few days later that several people asked him about the ballad in their set, a slow, thoughtful line that some mistook for an Ornette Coleman piece.

Unlike Michael Bisio, Paul Thompson amplified his bass and there were times when it was hard to hear it, especially when Dave Throckmorton was rolling across his toms. I could feel the bass though, and picked up on Thompson's accents. He also cranked it up a bit as the set moved on. Throck, much like Newman Taylor Baker, was hard to capture on film, his head being obscured by a cymbal.

Hopefully some of those in the crowd who had never heard the trio will check them out again. In fact, all interested parties should go to City of Asylum this Sunday at six. The trio, plus guitarist Chris Parker, will be playing an all-Ornette set. It's free but they request online reservations to make sure they can seat everyone.

1 comment:

TD said...

It was a pretty amazing show from both Thoth and Shipp trios. Bisio's solo was definitely a highlight. Excited to see Thoth + Chris Parker this weekend.