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The Big Takeover Issue #93
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Matthew Shipp - Circular Temple (ESP-Disk')

2 October 2023

It’s unfair to say that 1992’s Circular Temple is the album that put pianist Matthew Shipp on the map. But this, his first trio album with longtime partners Whit Dickey (drums) and William Parker (bass), has become a touchstone in Shipp’s thirty-five-plus year career, and on its second reissue (and first appearance on vinyl), it’s easy to hear why. His trademarks are there in full force – the ivory-rippling runs, the beautifully soulful melodies, the ability to both embolden and control his colleagues’ most brazen instincts. Shipp’s take on free jazz nods to tradition, both avant-garde and not, but never serves any vision but his own. Circular Temple enshrined Shipp, no doubt, but it did so by proving any borders surrounding him were there to be not just crossed, but destroyed.