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 Title:             Skin and Bones

 By:                 Matthew Shipp / Mark Helias / Gordon Grdina

​ Released:      2019

 Format:         CD

 Catalog No:   MW 987-2

 EAN:              5906395187478

 Price:            12 EUR

Skin and Bones by Matthew Shipp, Mark Helias & Gordon Grdina album cover


1. Bob and Weave 10:49

2. The Distance 13:32

3. Solitary Figure 11:51

4. Stick and Move 07:38

5. The Onslaught 10:45

6. Feather Weight 10:15

7. The Slip 09:15



Matthew Shipp – piano

Gordon Grdina – oboe, guitar

Mark Helias – bass

Recorded on September 30th, 2018 by John Roham in Afterlife Studios in Vancouver, Canada

What the critics say:

This session was recorded in a studio in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where Mr. Grdina lives. Canadian guitarist & oud player, Gordon Grdina, is a restless musician who keeps challenging himself by playing with different musicians on each and every release. Over a couple of decade, Mr. Grdina has worked with a number of Vancouver’s best musicians as well as international greats like Mats Gustafsson, Paul Motian, Tony Malaby and Hank Roberts. Although Mr. Grdina has worked with Mr. Helias previously, this is his first time recording with Mr. Shipp. This is also the first time that Mark Helias and Matt Shipp have recorded together, although they are neighbors on the lower east side. The first thing I noticed here is how well this is recorded: superbly, perfectly balanced. Although this music was freely improvised, there is quite a bit more going on here. On the opening track, “Bob and Weave”, the guitar and piano play their own melodic lines together, constantly connected to an inner pattern while the bass holds done the bottom, playing both rhythm team parts together. I like the way, Mr. Grdina, changes the tone of his guitar on each piece, which gives the trio a different sound on each piece. From quiet and dream-like to more explosive sections as well. The trio often take their time, strip things down to exquisite, skeletal levels and then build back up to more rambunctious moments. Consistently extraordinary throughout! 


(review courtesy of  © Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG)


The Skin and Bones Music Series is an ongoing succession of creative music events in various venues in and around the city of Kelowna in British Columbia. The concerts have hosted a diverse group of jazz artists from veterans such as Peter Brötzmann to rising stars The Bjorn Kriel Trio. Among the series' featured acts was the power trio MGB, with guitarist, oud player, and oboist Gordon Grdina, Matt Mitchell and Jim Black. In 2018, Grdina returned with virtuoso pianist, composer and improviser Matthew Shipp and master bassist Mark Helias for a performance at Kelowna's hundred-year-old First United Church. Their album Skin and Bones takes its title from that series but was recorded at Afterlife Studios, also in British Columbia. 


Grdina, a Vancouver native, made his debut as leader in 2006 on Think Like the Waves, an impressive trio debut that featured Gary Peacock and Paul Motian. In 2018 he won the prestigious Juno Award for his solo album China Cloud (Madic Records). Shipp was the subject of retirement rumors in 2017 but has gone on to lead or co-lead twenty albums since, all worthy of inclusion in an imposing portfolio that will soon hit ninety releases. Helias has worked with the legends Anthony Braxton, Ed Blackwell, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor and many more. 


The seven tracks on Skin and Bones are real-time improvisations. The drummerless trio imparts a dynamic that—for the first forty minutes of this seventy-plus minute album—gives equal footing to the members. There are interactions, push-and-pull, but the communications are less argumentative; Grdina and Shipp engage in intelligent discourse with few sizzling inflection points. On "Bob and Weave" and "The Distance," we hear the coexistence of lyricism and detachment as guitar and piano explore inside and outside the bewildering array of sounds. That weirdly idyllic environment changes dramatically with "The Onslaught"; Shipp's thunderous chords, Helias' bowed bass and Grdina utilizing the oboe and guitar, create an alien carnival air. 


"Feather Weight" opens with a highly entertaining duet between Helias and Shipp, Grdina entering to add a more complex layer to the piece. Taken with the closing piece, "The Slip," the program takes on a suite-like quality despite the spontaneity of the music. Skin and Bones mostly avoids pyrotechnics, instead igniting smaller fires whose embers almost accidentally touch on the players, inspiring them with the faintest light. With every shift of the wind, we are taken to a new and intriguing place.

(review courtesy of  © Karl Ackerman and AllAboutJazz)


Three powerhouse musicians of the avant-garde combine for seven wholly improvised pieces, and yet, despite their spontaneous composition, they cohere beautifully.  Matthew Shipp is probably the best known of these three, a prolific and commanding pianist who has threatened to stop recording—so each new offering should be treasured.  He’s relatively introspective in this outing, only sometimes pulling out his trademark furious post-Cecil Taylor attack.  Canadian guitarist (and oboe-player on 5), Grdina uses his immense skill to coax out stunning abstract lines from an acoustic guitar that seems to melt into the melodies at times.  Mark Helios rounds out the trio with deep yet sharp bass work at times enfolding the other two in his sound, at others discoursing with piano and guitar.  The opposite of casual listening, this is the kind of music that demands you pay attention, and it draws you in to the intricate interplay between the musicians.  The degree of musical communication between the players is remarkable: an album that commends multiple listenings.

(review courtesy of © Carl Pearson, WFHB Bloomington, IN  USA)

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