I’ve seen a ton of shows since moving to Nashville 15 years ago, but pianist Matthew Shipp’s 2006 solo set at a church on Indiana Avenue still stands out as the most mind-blowing performance I’ve witnessed. It was an astonishing display, as if he had consumed the entirety of popular music, broken it down to its genetic code, then reassembled the DNA into a seemingly infinite number of mutations: familiar, delicate, unnerving, harmonically dense, nostalgic, atonal, pulsating, arrhythmic — and that was just the first 60 seconds.
Classical allusions, straight-ahead jazz changes and simple melodies would emerge out of cacophony, then recombine in ways that contradicted their usual associations. A jarring “Summertime,” in particular, seemed loaded with political overtones. Even though the crowd was predominantly indie-rock types there to see openers Lambchop and Hands Off Cuba, the avant-garde jazz legend got a spontaneous and boisterous standing ovation like few I’ve seen.
Kudos to promoter Chris Davis for bringing Shipp back again, this time to the VFW Post 1970, 7220 Charlotte Pike, at 8 p.m. Saturday. He'll be appearing with his trio, including Michael Bisio on upright bass and Whit Dickey on drums. For jazz fans (or anyone with a set of ears, really), this may be the can’t-miss show of the year. Better yet, Lambchop will once again open for Shipp. And with guitarist Mary Halvorson and bassist Stephan Crump at Zeitgeist’s Indeterminacies series Friday night, this could be the greatest weekend for free jazz Nashville’s ever seen.