However high expectations might be concerning a meeting of two veterans in collaboration, there are certain recordings that simply destroy all preconceptions. This duo performance of saxophonist Rob Brown and Matthew Shipp is a case in point, and while each of their duo projects, spanning thirty years, is wonderful in its own way, this one sets a new standard.
The eight sections of this single piece of music mirror the duo's previous collaborations in that they form a unit, but the imitation ends there. To suggest that a telepathic relationship has deepened would be to state the obvious. Listen to the differences between the energetically rough-shod Sonic Explorations from 1988 and the Vision Festival recordings from the late 1990s to hear subtlety and nuance in furthered flight. Then, fast forward twenty years, but buckle up, because nothing prepares for the opening phrases of these 2018 ruminations. Ture, these are freely improvising musicians, and there is no mistaking their debt to that multivalent tradition, but then, there are the four notes Brown plays and Shipp's ravishing accompaniment, defying all boundaries between chord and motive. A more fundamental and complex narrative would be difficult to find as repetition occurs in spirals, each phrase relating to its immediate predecessor while augmenting and ultimately sweeping it aside. Any concept of interlude and main material is also to be discarded, as the middle-register piano counterpoint beginning its downward arc at 0:16 leads to a saxophone descent both of a piece with it and vastly different, something existing midway between perfect foil and gateway. Space doesn't allow for the moment-to-moment concentration this recording deserves, but the fourth track may as well be a germination of the seeds planted in the first. Brown's phrase at 0:10 is immediately captured and repeated an octave lower, the unit then expanded and fragmented in various ways without context ever falling prey to the pretense of superficial development.
Of course, each musician's voice has developed, and one need only listen to the fifth and seventh tracks to engage with each individually. Shipp's voicings are as exquisite as his control over dynamics is complete, and the fact that the piano is recorded both close and dry allows each detail its proper level and position. The subtleties of his pedaling are mirrored in Brown's staggering approach to dynamics in the seventh track, a mosaic of linear and harmonic narrative in which he even plays multiple tones at a strategic moment, and what descriptive verbiage can I lavish upon the mellow beauty of his final pitch? Enough! Listen for yourself. I have heard these musicians in multiple settings for more than two decades, but this is among the finest music either has committed to disc. The title is a fitting verbal representation of the interwoven continua along which the music travels.
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