Guest Post: Henry Rollins on Matthew Shipp

Henry Rollins has been a fiery tongued advocate for independent music and creative culture since he was the frontman of seminal hardcore band Black Flag in the early 1980s. He has since released numerous solo music and spoken word albums, written several books on travel, politics, and music (including Get in the Van: On The Road with Black Flag, the audio version of which earned him a Grammy Award), hosted The Henry Rollins Show on the Independent Film Channel, and currently hosts a radio show on KCRW and is a regular columnist for Vanity Fair and LA Weekly. In the early 1990s, Rollins started a record label and publishing company called 2.13.61 as an outlet for his work and others. Among the label’s catalogue are three albums by composer and pianist Matthew Shipp: Critical Mass (1995), Zo (1997) and The Flow of X (1997). Knowing his deep knowledge and appreciation for jazz music – check out his recent contribution to JazzOnline’s Miles Davis podcast – Ars Nova Workshop asked Rollins to share some thoughts on Shipp. Here’s what he had to say:

Unknown Object“It is listening to Matthew Shipp’s work that has always been a reminder to me that real Jazz music, no matter how refined or complex it can be, relies primarily on guts. Jazz, invariably, is a visceral and raw endeavor, often making Rock music seem soft in comparison. For the player and the listener, alike, it is a total experience.

Matthew Shipp and his work have fascinated me since I first heard him many years ago. His originality and approach sometimes stretches the limits of what is considered Jazz music yet at the same time, describes perfectly the fierce freedom of it. It is always great to encounter such honesty in music. You know it when you hear it and it has a natural appeal but also carries a warning that you will have to deal with it on its terms. I don’t think Matthew has any other way of going about it.

Matthew is not only a brilliant Jazz pianist, he is a true artist and visionary. He is really taking it somewhere. I remember when I first met him, the quiet intensity of the guy was a halting reality check. Polite, soft spoken and completely unstoppable. To watch him play, the physicality of the man meeting the instrument is as full on a performance as I’ve ever witnessed.

I have encountered many musicians in my life and many are inspired and worthwhile but rarely are they so forcefully driven and honestly inspired as Matthew Shipp. Again, it’s coming from the guts, it’s the real thing.”

Matthew Shipp will be performing on Friday, October 15 at Philadelphia Art Alliance. To keep up with Henry Rollins’ numerous written and spoken engagements check out his official website.