Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #1 — Matthew Shipp

The first installment of a recurring feature on, an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Matthew Shipp performing at Greenwich House. Photo: Bradley Bambarger.)

Pianist Matthew Shipp, a native of Delaware born in 1960, has been a fixture in New York City’s avant-jazz scene since the 1980s, and he remains as prolific as ever, releasing multiple albums each year as a leader for various labels (not to mention his appearances as a sideman). In the early 2000s, Shipp began curating Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series, shepherding a line of albums that melded progressive jazz with beat and remix culture in an artful, evergreen way. Prior to becoming a standout soloist and bandleader, he was a member of saxophonist David S. Ware’s edgy quartet for more than a decade. Subsequently, Shipp has collaborated extensively with saxophonist Ivo Perelman. The pianist’s most recent studio release as a leader is Piano Song (Thirsty Ear), with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker. But there have also been three live albums featuring Shipp available this year: the solo Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zurich (Hatology); This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (ESP-Disk), with reed player Mat Walerian and bassist William Parker; and Magnetism(s) (Rogue Art), with Parker and saxophonist Rob Brown. Shipp performed solo in the Sound It Out series in September 2014. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Solo Piano by Phineas Newborn Jr.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

Any Return to Forever album.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Low by David Bowie.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Study in Brown by Clifford Brown – I love it.

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Not sure – maybe Jesus Christ Superstar, if that counts.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

I have not been to a live gig lately except for hearing others at the same festivals I’ve been playing – and I haven’t really experienced the sort of enthusiasm that I had when I was young, as far as being in the audience at someone else’s concert. 

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

My favorite venue is the Earth as a whole – I love to play for people who listen, wherever it is. My least favorite would be places with horrible pianos, wherever that may be. I love to play, but a bad piano hurts.

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” — Charlie Parker

  1. If you could have a drink with any visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Jackson Pollock.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

My brain. A good piano. If it’s not an acoustic gig, then a good monitor.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My desktop computer.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

All About Jazz. It used to be the JazzTimes website.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

The boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., for the dedication to his craft.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

Donald Trump – every aspect of his existence.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world? Use three words to describe it.

My apartment – feels like home.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

The void which is outside of space/time.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Naked Lunch.

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most (not a person) – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss life before social media, which has cheapened everything. And I look forward to teleportation.

  1. What would you like your last meal to be?

Steak and eggs.