The industrial and the idyllic collide with beautiful force on pianist Matthew Shipp's latest exploration. The third of Shipp's Blue Series releases for Thirsty Ear, this is the least orthodox, least horn-inflected, and most abstract: Daniel Carter plays saxophone and flute on a few tracks, but isn't a key figure on an album that aims to stake Shipp's claim to rock territory.
Sparked by the ubiquitous, brilliant drumming of Guillermo Brown, the roaming synthesizer of Chris Flam, and the firmly grounded propulsion of bassist William Parker, Nu Bop's nine tracks paint distinctively urban pictures. The title cut squalls and drives like a busy intersection. "D's Choice" clicks and clacks like a subway, with Brown's Latin percussion and Flam's squiggles framing Shipp's blocky chromatics in a soundscape that's both dynamic and wistful. On "Rocket Shipp," the longest cut, Shipp and Brown, who are the core of this album, thrust and parry their way toward invigorating, danceable fusion.
An expert in coloration, repetition, and drama, the unorthodox Shipp says he intended this to "finesse the openness of the sound of DJ culture and jazz culture." Indeed, this rocking album makes the demands of serious jazz -- it virtually commands you to listen to it -- but provides the groove and beat of technopop. It all adds up to a crash course in buoyant, beguiling bop.