Solo Piano: Marc Cary and Matthew Shipp

I would never have placed Marc Cary and Matthew Shipp in the same category of jazz pianists, but their superb new solo discs—Cary’s For the Love of Abbey (Motema) and Shipp’s Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear)—find them converging toward close points from different angles.

They’ve risen out of different influences: Cary, 47, shaped by his stints with the singers Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln; Shipp, 53, more in the school of Cecil Taylor and Ran Blake, racking up years with Roscoe Mitchell and David S. Ware.

On his latest, though, Cary clangs the piano’s lower registers and flits through unusually adventurous harmonies, while maintaining his lyrical flow. Shipp coaxes lovely, almost romantic melodies, in between dissonant dirges and brooding blue notes—ie, without losing his avant flair.

They’re both riveting albums: heady and passionate. Cary plumbs the Abbey Lincoln songbook and shines new light on her underrated prowess as a composer. Shipp unfurls original pieces, juxtaposing vast ranges of styles in seamless fashion, but also covers gentle, probing takes of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Shorter’s “Nefertiti.” (Cary’s 14 tracks include two originals and a cover of Ellington’s “Melancholia.”)

These are two monster pianists at their peak powers. The sound quality is also searing: up close, dynamic, and perfectly clear.

Timbo in Oz's picture

I wonder how the recording was miked?!

Given that its a single piano did they eschew close multiple mono miking?