Matthew Shipp’s New Orbit @ 20 

Source: burning ambulance.

When pianist Matthew Shipp, who turned 60 in December 2020, released New Orbit in early 2001, he was embarking on an intriguing new phase in his career. He had signed with the Thirsty Ear label as both an artist and a curator of the Blue Series, which attempted to bring avant-garde jazz into the mainstream, or at least the alternative/indie sphere, via carefully assembled releases and cross-genre collaborations. Blue Series albums often featured electronics and modern production techniques, and the music valued both melody and concision. Shipp inaugurated the series with 2000’s Pastoral Composure, a quartet disc featuring trumpeter Roy Campbell, bassist William Parker, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. It opened with “Gesture,” a relatively simple theme Shipp wrote as a teenager, set to a martial beat and a bowed bass line by his bandmates and adorned with a rich, full trumpet melody. The album also included versions of Duke Ellington‘s “Prelude to a Kiss” and the French children’s song “Frère Jacques,” and other original compositions like “Visions” and “Progression” were shockingly listener-friendly hard bop tunes.