8 bars with matthew shipp

Our guest is jazz pianist Matthew Shipp.

8 bars with is a series on educated guesses where we offer up 8 questions to a special guest for them to ponder and freestyle on.  The questions aren't necessarily questions as much as they are prompts or linguistic ink blots meant to stimulate thought.  The responses can be short and pithy, long and loquacious or somewhere in between.

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60 year-old, Delaware-born Matthew Shipp has reigned supreme as one of the most iconoclastic pianists on the New York scene for four decades, as a sideman with a number of artists, including Roscoe Mitchell and David Ware, and as a leader of his own pioneering ensembles and solo piano recordings. With over sixty recordings as a leader, his latest recording is Codebreaker.

1. How do you define your music?

I define my music as music. It is highly vibrational. At the end of the day, I am articulating vibration on an instrument, and as far as what genre people perceive it as …well, that is up to them . To me, I am just trying to stay with the purity of the vibration.

2. What is The Mystery School?

The Black Mystery School of piano is a classification I came up with to describe a school of piano playing that you can say started with Monk and Herbie Nichols, that deals with an alternative touch - and piano real estate - than what is usually thought of as mainstream jazz piano. It is a complete attitude and posture. I did an essay about it where it is completely fleshed out. It is a tree within jazz piano.  

3. Robert Boysie Lowery?

Boysie was a jazz teacher in Wilmington Delaware – my hometown. His most  celebrated pupil was Clifford Brown. I had the great honor of studying with Boysie as a teen for two years.

4. Dennis Sandole?

Sandole was a jazz teacher in Philadelphia. His most celebrated pupil was John Coltrane. I had the honor of studying with Sandole for two-and-a-half years.

.5. Joe Sample?

He can get a whole poetic sound world swirling: His articulation is so crisp and original - his phrasing is unique - and it's all tied into his basic concept of the sound he wants to project. His playing is always a gestalt.

6. The New York Club scene, circa 80s?

When I moved to NYC in the early eighties, I was socially handing in dance clubs in a very vibrant scene of misfits, where the music and the art worlds were hanging out, and were tied together. It was the scene that the painter Basquiat was hanging out in. It was exciting – stimulating, lurid - many things. It is hard to describe, but that scene has never been duplicated.

7. The jazz scene today?

I am sixty years old, and involved in trying to do my own thing. I don’t really payn attention to the scene, or have an opinion about it. Younger players will have to create the ‘’scene’’ around them that will feed their work .

8. Your dream duet?

I have basically played with everyone I want to.

Bonus Question:


For a small town, Wilmington used to have it all: Great people hidden in all areas. It was a very culturally rich city for such a small city . I’m so grateful to have grown up there.