Matthew Shipp: Leaving the Door Open

Matthew Shipp: Leaving the Door Open

Matthew Shipp: Leaving the Door Open

One of jazz’s top pianists talks about why his music is jazz and why it also isn’t.

Written By

Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is an ASCAP-award winning composer and music journalist. Among his compositions are Already Yesterday or Still Tomorrow for orchestra, the "performance oratorio" MACHUNAS, the 1/4-tone sax quartet Fair and Balanced?, and the 1/6-tone rock band suite Imagined Overtures. His compositions are represented by Black Tea Music. Oteri is the Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and is Composer Advocate at New Music USA where he has been the Editor of its web magazine,, since its founding in 1999.

Matthew Shipp in conversation with Frank J. Oteri
July 27, 2005, 11 a.m.-noon in Shipp’s home and October 3, 2005, 2-3 p.m. at Shipp’s practice studio
Video filmed and edited by Randy Nordschow
Transcribed and edited by Frank J. Oteri and Molly Sheridan

Matthew Shipp’s recordings—and there are tons of them—are always surprising and refreshing, but hearing him live is an even more remarkable experience. Watching him play feels like actually watching his neurons fire as they translate non-verbal thoughts into phrases on the piano, all in a matter of seconds. The piano somehow seems like an extension of his brain. Yet, at the same time, the music is as emotional and rapturous as it is cerebral and virtuosic.

Inside Pages:

So I thought it would be great to actually get verbal with him for NewMusicBox. We spoke right before he went into the studio to record a solo piano CD, One, which Thirsty Ear will release in January. He said it will be his last album, but he’s said that before.

Matt talks like he plays: a million thoughts fly by in a sentence. While keeping up with him in a conversation was a challenge, transcribing our talk was downright Herculean. But it was worth the process. Our chat wandered from the role of the piano in today’s society to the relevance of genre to the shifting, but somehow never adequate, economics of making music in America. It was shocking to me that one of my personal favorite pianists alive today doesn’t have a piano in his own home, so in addition to visiting him there we also convinced him to briefly let us peak into the private world of his practice studio. Join us.