Matthew Shipp

Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear)

The Quiet American,
One of Matthew Shipp's more accessible albums, Equilibrium is the first of three recordings this New York pianist plans to release this year. The man is inherently collaborative; this disc features his interplay with longtime associates William Parker on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Chris Flam on synths and programs. The new element is Khan Jamal, whose vibraphone broadens Shipp's textures without diluting them. The pieces swing between the pensive and the pulsating, and overall, Equilibrium grows more watery as it progresses. "Vamp to Vibe," "The Root," and "The Key" traverse Shipp's darker, more percussive approach. In contrast, the thoughtful, deliberate title tune, "World of Blue Glass," and the eerie "Nu Matrix" exhibit Shipp's more ambient side.

The production is luminous, the atmosphere soothing, yet modern. Even though several tracks seem to wander at first, the album is ultimately of a piece. Think of background music that forces its way to the forebrain; Equilibrium makes you glad it finds its proper place.

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