“Piano Song,”  To Be Released Jan. 2017

- Peter Gordon

Henry Rollins first introduced me to the music of Matthew Shipp. Thirsty Ear was marketing and distributing his label 2.13.61 Records for which Shipp was a recording artist. This was in the mid 90’s and the NY jazz scene was something I mostly read about in the papers.

Though Henry spoke with articulate passion about Shipp’s energy, drive and heightened musicianship, it was not until I attended a concert that I fully understood his power, fury and otherworldly vision. Shipp’s music was not meant to be polite, it was meant to shake, rattle and challenge your senses with volcanic explosions. And it succeeded.

After Matthew finished his obligations with 2.13.61 Records, I wanted him to record for Thirsty Ear. The driving composition of his creative intensity was unfiltered by common parlance and unfettered by standard convention. In other words, a true original, a true rarity.

In typical Shipp fashion he spent a year thinking about it and only agreed to do so if it was his last recording. That was 1999, and now, 18 years and dozens of recordings later, all of which I’ve had the pleasure of producing, those words are finally being put to rest. Matthew is exhausted but his body of work for the Blue Series will live on forever.

Shipp’s musical appetite is like no other I’ve experienced. It is insatiable, unshakable, bottomless and without peer. His stumbles turn to magical leaps; his angular lines straighten with lightening quickness only to reverse once again, defying all logic. This has been his strength and his weakness. The strength of his boundless exuberance busting through genre constructs is difficult to neatly define in monosyllabic words that are easily metabolized. His music is a journey that begs for the abandonment of scripted linear thinking. In short, you are challenged to wipe your brain and start fresh. The rewards are immense and transformative; just reboot, let go and be consumed.

This really is Matthew’s last record for Thirsty Ear. He will continue in his role as our artistic director. We are grateful, as his scope of musical understanding extends far beyond the keyboard. He loves to champion artists, helping them through what seems like an impenetrable obstacle course that is known as the music business.

We were curious if over the past eighteen years a critical narrative would emerge stating a sort of collective consciousness of reflective thinking for Matthew’s work. What we found and what you will read below was a remarkably coherent through line, which was procured from thousands of articles written about Matthew Shipp and reduced to fifteen quotes. He seems to transcend being a jazz musician, by elevating his art as an elixir, to be prescribed to heal, excite, confuse and enlighten, depending on your state of mind. Like life itself, he gives answers and spins mysteries leaving it up to us to solve or leave unresolved. It’s a soul-redefining potion I’ll always drink.

Peter Gordon
Thirsty Ear Recordings


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