Jungle (Mat Walerian, Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake)-Live at Okuden_First Impressions

Jungle is a group with a lot of fire power.  Matthew Shipp’s explosive deep piano playing can over power nearly anyone and Hamid Drake’s heavy handed grooves yield big moments.  On Jungle, fire power certainly provides some of the most shocking moments, however, the group leaves room for subtlety, always keeping their intensity in check with thought provoking space.

Walerian begins the album on flute, setting the tone for more climactic points with idea-brewing groundwork.  As the piece moves forward, the trio begins a long string of group playing with near groove-like states emerging.  Later on in the performance, there is a slight shift in focus with each individual taking up time of their own.  “Ultimate Insurance” is Hamid Drake’s selected moment in the spotlight, his melodic playing taking up most of the space on the song, before being replaces by the sounds of Walerian’s bass clarinet.

The group’s approach to rhythm is particularly notable.  Although drummer Drake keeps some sense of swing or groove in his wheelhouse at all times, the exact meter remains at the back of his mind, never broadcasting itself too obviously.  In doing so, the piece is able to drive forward without losing it’s improvisatory nature.

Generally speaking, Walerian remains relatively stagnant.  The album places a considerable amount of focus on dynamic musicality, but oftentimes, during particularly exciting moments, Walerian finds himself in a similar places.  His licks and chops are obvious, but he doesn’t do much more than add to the hectic nature of the climax. Matthew Shipp reads as a much more versatile musician.  The power of his left hand alone is enough to substitute for a bass and his combination of chordal and contrpunctal playing gives the work a lot of texture.

With a live recording album of this nature, it is easy to be enveloped upon first listen, but live concerts often focus more on the crowd in the particular moment rather than the musicality over a long period of time.  That being said, the album touches upon a lot of important ideas such as motivic development, dynamics, wide-ranging levels of excitement making for a solid piece of music.  It’s lifespan remains undetermined upon first listen.



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