The very idea of an "avant-garde jazz pianist" presupposes a kind of demonic practitioner of "splatter piano," jack-hammering violent tone clusters all over the room a la Cecil Taylor at his most pneumatic. But then you listen to "One" (Thirsty Ear), Matthew Shipp's wonderful new solo piano disc, and you're transported to a realm of musical stream-of-consciousness that is endlessly surprising and replete with the most remarkable chiaroscuro. Longtime jazz listeners will sometimes be reminded of the solo piano concerts of Mal Waldron (who was most famous as Billie Holiday's final accompanist).
It isn't that Shipp can't -- and doesn't sometimes -- play with percussive savagery and expressionist velocity. It's just that he is a complete jazz pianist with much to say at every tempo, dynamic and attack level.
For some reason, the piano pulled way ahead of every other instrument in jazz in the past decade as the instrument of choice for the largest number of jazz's most individualistic and gifted players. Even so, Shipp has long stood out as one of the most important of avant-garde jazz pianists.
On the heels of the release of "One," Shipp will come to Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave., for a solo concert at 8 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $12 for the general public, $8 for members, students and seniors.
-- Jeff Simon