Matthew Shipp Equilibrium

Matthew Shipp blows hot and cold. One moment he's dropping absolute garbage like his collaboration with Anti Pop Consortium, but he's also successfully expanded his technique as on the Spring Heel Jack's Amassed. On Equilibrium he takes on Roy Ayers' early '70s sounds and wins. If you can imagine Ayers' early Ubiquity getting darker and freer, you'll get the point of Shipp's new work. Khan Jamal, the recently rediscovered harmolodic vibist, is fantastic throughout. "Vamp the Vibe" is a case in point - it could be a trippier version of Ayers' "Evolution," but keeps on going into the stratosphere. Drummer Gerald Cleaver is another strong contributor. He has found new ways to stretch and compress time over programmed beats. As for the beats themselves, provided by Flam, they are still too stationary. They're just plain old rather than old school, however they are more deftly processed than on Shipp's last electro-disc NU Bop. Bassist William Parker has learned to slow down his ideas in electronic settings to create memorable bass lines rather than a flurry of bass activity. I still think Shipp and other artists on Thirsty Ear have more to give, but the experiments of this label are now three- or four-star affairs rather than two-star letdowns. (Thirsty Ear)