Whit Dickey / William Parker / Matthew Shipp

Village Mothership

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Village Mothership Review

by Thom Jurek

As Aum Fidelity/Tao Forms label boss Steven Joerg recounts in the liner notes for Village Mothership, the roots of this trio date back 30 years to Matthew Shipp's Circular Temple (issued in 1990 and re-released in 1994). These players also worked together in the quartet of saxophone great David S. Ware before pursuing different projects. The trio's members reconvened under the drummer's leadership for the sublime Peace Planet in 2019. Village Mothership is a continuation of their work together, but it also takes forks in the road. Recorded in February 2020, this trio appears as a leaderless improvising collective. Over six commonly composed selections, they create a language that emerges from individual dialects. Opener and bookend "A Thing & Nothing" commences with sparse syntax and mid-register piano chord voicings and ticking hi-hat cymbals, with Parker's single-plucked notes as the bridge. He plays around the pianist's investigatory flurries then picks up his bow to dazzling effect. Dickey adds muted rim shots, leaving Shipp and Parker to design the inner (elastic) time frame he illustrates. The proceedings get unruly at various junctures, but intimately shared communication draws the players deeper into the music with drama and color. "Whirling in the Void" initiates a fiery and fluid vanguard improv governed by a bop-like logic, unfolding in sometimes furious tempos, cascading intervallic feints, and spiky chromatic assertions. Parker's rumbling attenuations of rhythmic pulse are executed with a wide harmonic palette centering everything while simultaneously moving it forward. Dickey shines throughout, but particularly on the title cut. His opening solo emerges from spectral silences on detuned snares and kick drums to find a circular rhythm he embellishes with rolls, accents, and cymbal washes before the band joins him. Parker dictates a swinging pace and Shipp responds first to Dickey, then to the bassist. They turn back on themselves amid multivalent pulsing chord voicings, with harmonic extrapolations answered by splashing ride cymbals as Parker walks through and introduces a swinging post-bop section. "Drown Void Way" emerges from chaotic timbral and tonal interaction, unfurling as a canny exercise in near-operatic drama as Parker's arco playing leads the pack through a winding series of labyrinthian turns. Through it all, Dickey's developed circular aesthetic guides from below. "A Thing & Nothing" returns, this time as a gorgeous exploratory ballad that changes shape several times across eight-and-a-half minutes. Parker's punchy rhythmic attack and interrogative notions reach toward the blues with Shipp underscoring as Dickey intuitively frames them with added polyrhythmic diction, opening up lyric, dynamic, and modal possibilities. Village Mothership is the antidote for the seemingly limited expressions most piano-bass-drum trios offer. It asks questions but also seeks to answer them in real time. The trio makes music that uses jazz and its vanguard tradition not as vehicles for expression, but as passageways to the undiscovered.

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