Avant-garde pianist Matthew Shipp makes a stop with his trio at Nighttown on Thursday. It’s been a long time coming. I’m not sure he’s ever come closer than Erie, Pa., which, incidentally, he’ll play again on Wednesday night, part of a five-day sweep around Lake Erie that will also take him to Toledo, Detroit and Toronto.
That he’s touring in support of a Greatest Hits (Thirsty Ear) album should tell you something about the 52-year-old pianist who’s revered by fans on the fringe, well-known and highly regarded within the jazz world, but surely hasn’t tasted any Casey Kasem-bestowed success. I’m not sure what it should tell you—is he being ironical, cynical, comical, delusional? Actually, he has indicated that he’s just being practical—releasing a “compendium” of material to give those new to his music a good place to start.
Whatever the reason, if there were any justice in the world (or at least in the world of the arts) Matthew Shipp truly would be a hit maker. His music is adventurous, jarring, energetic, riveting. It can turn dark, run through affecting, perhaps despondent, passages, then explode in a fit of cathartic clamoring. There is nothing of sentimentality or fluff in Shipp’s music. For lack of a better word, it’s intense. And always eminently and truthfully human, which, sadly, isn’t something you can say too often about a good deal of the art that floats around and gets puffed up.
Shipp will be joined by bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey, who played with the pianist on last year’s Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear), easily one of the best records of 2012. Show starts at 8 p.m. and cost is $20. I advise all Cleveland humans to be in attendance.