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Album Review

In 2003, Antipop Consortium's Beans and HPrizm (nee Priest) engaged Matthew Shipp, William Parker, drummer Guillermo Brown, vibraphonist Khan Jamal, and trumpeter Daniel Carter in a slippery exercise where hip-hop's new century rhymes met the new jazz in a delightful set. Eight years later, a quartet emerges with just Shipp and Parker alongside Antipop, and the creative stakes get upped. Rather than two groups coming together in another attempt to bridge the gap between hip-hop and jazz, this is actually "hip-hop jazz"; no one cares whether the seams show — they're supposed to — it makes them easier to rip open toward the light, hence the title Knives from Heaven. Shipp and Parker have been playing together for over 30 years; they don't worry about meeting loops, grooves, or rhymes; they simply provide either fresh context or offer guidance and support. Priest's beats and electronics pace these tracks; often they sample the players but they're also canvassed from other sources. The rhythm section's live playing uses Priest's beats to further reveal the stridently inventive cadences in Beans' and Priest's poetry; the instrumental duo flashes melodically, pulses urgently, or finds new juxtapositional angles to push the rhymes even further toward the beat's ledge. Check "Half Amazed A/B," where the statement of truth is: "the real lyricism is now renew my vows." Shipp's shard-like chords and Parker's propulsion meet a a snare/hi-hat shuffle, a sampled two-note tenor sax line, and turntables; Priest and Beans converse about the language of rhyme. Shipp's as mysterious here as on his own records; he provides the space the sonic contrast calls for: he pulls his lines up short, repeats them with ever so slight tonal variations, or shifts them into extrapolated modes to suit and exert force. Check "Deadpan Stare," which gives way to the angular rhyme on "Rockers HiFi," which flows into the ambient synth and melodic piano textures of "Ornate," which give way to the crunchy, syncopated "Non Sexorexia," where Beans and Priest battle against language in relation to accepted cultural images as Shipp and Parker highlight their tension. Twenty tracks flow into 43 minutes here. The effect is both hypnotic and startling; hip-hop finds itself in a new land, but Shipp and Parker explore it with relish exemplified by the skittering, knotty future funk of "The Arabic Cowboy John Clint Ameer." After this, Beans' vocals are absent, as Knives from Heaven leans toward an expansion of vanguard jazz's rhythm collision with Priest. Like everything else on this recording, this is just as it should be.


Born: December 7, 1960 in Wilmington, DE

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

With his unique and recognizable style, pianist Matthew Shipp worked and recorded vigorously from the late '80s onward, creating music in which free jazz and modern classical intertwined. He first became well known in the early '90s as the pianist in the David S. Ware Quartet, and soon began leading his own dates -- most often including Ware bandmate and leading bassist William Parker -- and recording a number of duets with a variety of musicians, from the legendary Roscoe Mitchell to violinist Mat...
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Knives From Heaven, Matthew Shipp
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