Burning the Diorama

For a while, it looked as if jazz had gotten stuffed and mounted. Hearty backslaps and unlimited food stamps should go to the few who’ve kept the music out of the museum over this past decade, but most of all Matthew Shipp.

Improvisational music had to change, and Shipp knew how. He vented his piano clouds into the radicalizing storm systems of David S. Ware and William Parker. His solo work’s meditations and restless potentialities connected with youth looking for fertile acoustic interiors. He energized New York’s avant scene, encouraging modern combinations of jazz, electronics, hip-hop, turntabling, remixing, dub and rock that satisfied the soul, not just the mind. He hooked up with the excellent Thirsty Ear label to get those sounds heard. (The latest example is a wet & wild collaboration with keyboard sorcerer John Medeski.) Hallelujah — jazz was fun again.

Solitude, as on One early this year, reveals the inner Shipp, and it’s a gas to hear his mind at work. His floating foundation is a permeable openness — the touch is probing; his atmospheres are welcoming; he uses the sustain pedal to let notes and overtones mingle. Meanwhile, the forms and ideas are mingling too. Shipp loves melodies, and lets one suggest another without cease. He’s got an ear for complex neoclassical harmony, but not for neoclassical stiffness. And when the bop muse grabs him, you hear Bud Powell’s playfulness but not the nervousness. Evading the careless speed of urban life, Shipp always smells the flowers.

Meet one of our most influential thinkers. He hasn’t been here in years.

Matthew Shipp plays solo piano at Barnsdall Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Oct. 20, 8:30 p.m.; $15. (310) 287-1918.

An Unfunny Story

In the great tradition of jazz evictions, Matthew Shipp ended up playing Barnsdall because he was kicked out of Culver City’s Club Tropical. Despite promises that bookings would be honored through October while the restaurant’s sale was being finalized, the music programming — including the world-class Thursday Cryptonight series, which has run there for three and a half years — was abruptly axed by the new owner. The final event, sold out though no one knew it would be the last, was an uproarious jazz funkdown by Joe Baiza Congress Of and sexalicious Beefheartian cabaret from the Baiza-Weba Garretson combo Puttanesca. Just a riot.

The doors slammed at an especially rotten time, since downtown’s Café Metropol, our other main bastion for edge jazz, is also musicless pending a venue revamp. Got an idea for a new Cryptonight location? Hit me at gburk@laweekly.com, and I’ll pass it on to the series’ creator, Jeff Gauthier.

Meanwhile, Catalina Bar & Grill celebrates its 20th anniversary Monday, and it’s been the top jazz club in town for almost the duration, hosting the biggest national names. For stretching your legs and getting sybaritic, the latter-day location can’t be beat, and Barbara Morrison, Herman Riley, Justo Almario, Bobby Rodriguez and a ton more will be on the bandstand to hoist a glass in tribute to Catalina and Manny. Deep congratulations.?

LA Weekly