Monday, January 23, 2017

Jungle: Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake – Live At Okuden (2016)

Jungle: Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake

Mat Walerian - alto saxophone, soprano & bass clarinet, flute
Matthew Shipp - piano
Hamid Drake - drums

Live At Okuden 

ESP 5009


By Adam Baruch

This is the second album by Polish (resident in the US) Jazz saxophonist / flautist / composer Mat Walerian, recorded live, this time in a trio format with veteran heroes: pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Hamid Drake. Same as the debut release a year earlier, the music was recorded during the Okuden Music Concert Series in 2012 and was released by the legendary ESP label. The 2CD set presents thirteen pieces, nine of which were composed by Walerian, one is a traditional tune, one was co-composed by Shipp and Drake and the remaining two were co-composed by all three members of the trio.

Walerian's debut was one of the strongest album releases of last year (2015) and this follow up is certainly another worthy contestant for this year's top of the crop. Almost out of nowhere Walerian emerges as one of the most versatile and virtuosic players in the Free Jazz / Improvised Music genre. His rapport with the genre's veterans, Shipp and Drake, is almost hard to believe and sounds as if they have been playing together for ages. His ability to create a wide range of atmospheres and moods, his usage of a range of instruments and last but not least his ability to write subtle melodic lines, which than serve as vehicles for collective improvisation is nothing short of extraordinary.

The music, although obviously free spirited and unbounded, is also surprisingly calm and relaxed, and always carries a melodic subtext, which makes it easy to follow by the listener. This dichotomy between intellectual freedom of creation and aesthetic oneness creates a wonderful tension, which lifts this music way above the "usual" free form musical encounters, which often propose nothing but weirdness. This wonderful music is simply beautiful as music, regardless of the way it is delivered.

Of course a trio recording is above all a joint venture between the trio members, which in this case works out like a dream. Shipp and Drake must be admired for their deliberate restrain and amicable attitude, which allows Walerian to present his often delicate statements without disturbance. Shipp's supportive chord structures allow Walerian to spread his wings and blow his heart out, having a steady and reliable basis behind him. In many respects this is similar to McCoy Tyner's playing behind John Coltrane during the heydays of the Quartet. Drake, who can be a very powerful and dominant drummer, also limits his creative support to supporting the music's rhythmic layer, ornamenting it rather than leading it. Overall the collective effort is simply perfect for this outstanding piece of music.

As already stated, this album is definitely one of the strongest statements released so far this year and a wonderful example of contemporary Art of music, a manifestation of human ingenuity and talent of rare significance. Obviously this album deserves to be heard by as many music connoisseurs as possible, who will be blessed by its significance if let into their hearts.

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