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  Underrated Jazz Pianists  
  by Dustin Garlitz  
     
 

November 2004:

There is a new generation of jazz pianists emerging today to replace the eminent work of such greats as Tommy Flanagan and Randy Weston.  My pick for two up-and-comers are Matthew Shipp and Craig Taborn.  Today, pianist Brad Meldau’s trio is considered one of the top bands in jazz -- yet Shipp and Taborn are often overlooked by critics outside the left-winged publications such as the Village Voice.  Shipp is the pianist in my old teacher’s band, the David S. Ware Quartet.  Taborn is the pianist for the prominent tenor man James Carter.   Both players are into more free jazz than any other genre, yet both have original compositional statements to make.  Shipp is the curator of Henry Rollins’ Thirsty Ear Records ‘Blue Series’.  This imprint is redefining modern jazz -- a Blue Note of the decade, mixing electronica and hip-hop with jazz.  On this label, Shipp has recorded albums with ‘illbient’ founder DJ Spooky and Queens, New York underground rap group the Anti-Pop Consortium.  He signed Craig Taborn to the Blue Series, whose album Junk Magic is filled with jazzy industrial noise and features another underrated musician, tenor saxophonist Aaron Stewart (who works with a third underrated pianist -- Vijay Iyer).  One shouldn’t also forget about Andrew Bemkey, a talented young pianist who has worked with a number of jazz masters.  Shipp landed a Cover-Story on my then Hometown-based magazine Jazziz back in 1998 (the product of its more progressive editorial regime-shift that took place in the late 1990s).  Yet most publications have forgotten about Matthew Shipp and Craig Taborn over the last few years…and these mainstream publications still haven’t found out about Vijay Iyer or Andrew Bemkey.  Keep an eye out for these young and talented pianists, especially if you’re in the New York City metropolitan area wanting to hear some great live jazz.