The Squid's Ear Magazine

Shipp, Matthew: Codebreaker (Tao Forms)

An unusually contemplative solo record from New York pianist Matthew Shipp, belying the intricately subtle density of his inventive approach to solo piano improvisation, with an innate lyricism through unusual motive and direction; perhaps one of the most succinct and concise albums Shipp has released, and a beautiful reflection of his creative intentions.

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product information:

UPC: 642623800720

Label: Tao Forms
Catalog ID: TAO 007CD
Squidco Product Code: 31254

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack - 3 panel
Recorded at Park West Studios, in Brooklyn, New York, by Jim Clouse.


Matthew Shipp-piano

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Matthew Shipp takes an introspective turn on his latest solo piano album, continuing to discover new territory for his singular cosmic pianism. Codebreaker encrypts rich harmonies, cloud-like clusters, and the unlikely confluence of Bill Evans and Bud Powell. Within the voluminous catalogue that pianist Matthew Shipp has created over the last three and a half decades, his solo piano work has charted a unique and compelling pathway for the evolution of the instrument's vocabulary. On his latest album, that path finds Shipp in an uncharacteristically meditative state of mind. Though the language is unmistakably his own, the usual attacks, dense clusters and insistent circularity are more often replaced by harmonic nebulae that luxuriate in the mysterious resonances which Shipp conjures from the keyboard."-Tao Forms

"An intrinsic value in Matthew Shipp's music is his insight into the language of his chosen profession. The processes that have led to one hundred years of change in jazz are embedded in his compositions and improvisations. More than a dozen solo piano albums into his thirty-five-year recording career, Codebreaker, Shipp's latest such effort, furthers his exceptional amalgam of spontaneous improvisation and historical authenticity. More concise than many of the pianist's projects, the compact pieces serve to highlight the expressive content of several performances, intensified by Shipp's moderation.

The content on Codebreaker is more euphonious than the pianist's recent solo outings, but it is a relative correlation. The album is more melodic, but it is so through Shipp's lyrically oblique worldview. He lets listeners discern that for themselves if there is a more resounding theme across the eleven compact tracks. Still, the transition from the tranquil opening title track to "Spiderweb" and then "Disc" depicts a loose trajectory. By the time we get to the second half with "Green Man," logic has developed. Shipp has cracked the combination, and we can hear the pieces falling together in the pin tumbler. When Codebreaker concludes with "The Tunnel," it is with an exhalation of relief.

Shipp is doing more than creating music; he regularly preserves part of jazz heritage in danger of being pulled out from under its creators. In that process, his influences are many, some celebrated and others lost to history. The brilliance of his creations is that Shipp never sounds as if he is taking his cue from anyone. There is dignified intelligence and warm, if elusive, appeal in Codebreaker. While it may be Shipp's most accessible solo work to date, that should not be mistaken for a less challenging listen."-Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz

Also available on vinyl LP with Download Code.
Get additional information at All About Jazz

Artist Biographies

"Matthew Shipp was born December 7, 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware. He started piano at 5 years old with the regular piano lessons most kids have experienced. He fell in love with jazz at 12 years old. After moving to New York in 1984 he quickly became one of the leading lights in the New York jazz scene. He was a sideman in the David S. Ware quartet and also for Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory before making the decision to concentrate on his own music.

Mr Shipp has reached the holy grail of jazz in that he possesses a unique style on his instrument that is all of his own- and he's one of the few in jazz that can say so. Mr. Shipp has recorded a lot of albums with many labels but his 2 most enduring relationships have been with two labels. In the 1990s he recorded a number of chamber jazz cds with Hatology, a group of cds that charted a new course for jazz that, to this day, the jazz world has not realized. In the 2000s Mr Shipp has been curator and director of the label Thirsty Ear's "Blue Series" and has also recorded for them. In this collection of recordings he has generated a whole body of work that is visionary, far reaching and many faceted."

-Matthew Shipp Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Codebreaker 4:40

2. Spiderweb 5:12

3. Disc 3:43

4. Code Swing 4:47

5. Letter From the Galaxy 4:56

6. Green Man 3:40

7. Raygun 4:02

8. Suspended 2:19

9. Mystic Motion 3:49

10. Stomp To the Galaxy 3:45

11. The Tunnel 3:27

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Piano & Keyboards
Solo Artist Recordings
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz

Search for other titles on the label:
Tao Forms.

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