Reviews that mention Joe McPhee

May 18, 2017

Joe McPhee & Raymond Boni

Live from the Magic City
Trost Records TR151

Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Bricktop

Trost Records TR157

Without Jazz adopting wholeheartedly a Confucian or Aboriginal culture where respect for elders outweighs many factors, it can’t be disputed that some of the most notable creativity over the past few years have come from improvisers who will never see 70 again. Then there are innovators like Joe McPhee who in 1969 arrived with a fully-formed vision on his first LP, Underground Railroad, and at 77 is still as cutting edge as the newest smart phone. Along the way McPhee has been involved in more tributaries of the Jazz’s ocean than there are run offs from land after a superabundant deluge. He has played Jazz standards and heroic salutes, dabbled in electronics and looping, touched on R&B and noted sounds, been featured in long-running and pick-up bands, and in multi-person ensembles or solo. His work is always of a consistent high quality. MORE

May 18, 2017

Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Bricktop
Trost Records TR157

Joe McPhee & Raymond Boni

Live from the Magic City

Trost Records TR151

Without Jazz adopting wholeheartedly a Confucian or Aboriginal culture where respect for elders outweighs many factors, it can’t be disputed that some of the most notable creativity over the past few years have come from improvisers who will never see 70 again. Then there are innovators like Joe McPhee who in 1969 arrived with a fully-formed vision on his first LP, Underground Railroad, and at 77 is still as cutting edge as the newest smart phone. Along the way McPhee has been involved in more tributaries of the Jazz’s ocean than there are run offs from land after a superabundant deluge. He has played Jazz standards and heroic salutes, dabbled in electronics and looping, touched on R&B and noted sounds, been featured in long-running and pick-up bands, and in multi-person ensembles or solo. His work is always of a consistent high quality. MORE

April 11, 2017

Joe McPhee/André Jaume

Nuclear Family
Corbett vs Dempsey CvD CD031

The Freexielanders

Looking Back, Playing Forward

Rudi Records RRJ1032

Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart

The Crave

No Business Records NBLP 100

Simon Nabatov

Monk’n’More

Leo Records CD LR 780

Something In The Air: Twisting Classic Jazz and Jazz Classics

By Ken Waxman

Classic Jazz, sometimes called Dixieland or Trad Jazz van be a path into the music. However since the 100th birthday of recorded jazz passed last month, those who stick to recreating jazz standards of earlier eras are in the position of Early Music devotes who refuse to consider anything not played on period instruments. Ironically enough some well-known Free players started out as Dixielanders, including saxophonist Steve Lacy and Toronto artist/pianist Michael Snow, but they soon switched to more challenging fare. Recently a new curiosity has emerged though. As a post-modern paradox some advanced improvisers are mixing old timey classics with free form sounds with unique results. MORE

February 18, 2017

NPR’s 11th Annual

Jazz Critics Poll Ballot
2016

•Your name and primary affiliation(s)

Ken Waxman: Jazzword.com The New York City Jazz Record; Whole Note

•Your choices for this year’s 10 best New Releases listed in descending order

1. Alexander Hawkins Trio Alexander Hawkins Music AH 1001

2. Anna Webber’s Simple Trio Binary Skirl Records 033

3. Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus The Distance ECM 2484

4. Artifacts Reed-Reid-Mitchell 482 Music 482-1093

5. Umlaut Big Band Euro Swing Vol. 2 Umlaut UMFR-CD18 MORE

January 2, 2017

Daunik Lazro/Joe McPhee

The Cerkno Concert Music for Legendary Heroes
Klopotec IZK CD 044

Joe McPhee

Flowers

Cipsela CIP005

Dedicated to creativity, multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee is like the Little Engine that Could – if you imagine that classic tale of hard works and optimism transported to the realm of improvised music. As intent on pursuing his own path as any visionary, the brass-reed specialist has done so since the mid-1960s and shows no sign of slowing down. As secure in his ideas as Do0nald Trump is in his pomposity, McPhee produced these compelling programs when he was 70 (Flowers) and 76 (The Cerkno Concert) with no sign of technical or idea slackening. The first CD, recorded in Coimbra, Portugal, is an object lesson in how to maintain audience support during a solo alto saxophone recital. The other, also recorded live, but in Cerkno, Slovenia, matches McPhee’s alto saxophone and pocket trumpet with the tonal undertaking from French tenor and baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro. Lazro, whose story of uncompromising individualism and restricted cult acceptance, could be the Gallic filmic remake of McPhee’s version original. Like fraternal organization members from far away who recognize similar convictions in one another, they’ve collaborated since the early 1990s. MORE

January 2, 2017

Joe McPhee

Flowers
Cipsela CIP005

Daunik Lazro/Joe McPhee

The Cerkno Concert Music for Legendary Heroes

Klopotec IZK CD 044

Dedicated to creativity, multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee is like the Little Engine that Could – if you imagine that classic tale of hard works and optimism transported to the realm of improvised music. As intent on pursuing his own path as any visionary, the brass-reed specialist has done so since the mid-1960s and shows no sign of slowing down. As secure in his ideas as Do0nald Trump is in his pomposity, McPhee produced these compelling programs when he was 70 (Flowers) and 76 (The Cerkno Concert) with no sign of technical or idea slackening. The first CD, recorded in Coimbra, Portugal, is an object lesson in how to maintain audience support during a solo alto saxophone recital. The other, also recorded live, but in Cerkno, Slovenia, matches McPhee’s alto saxophone and pocket trumpet with the tonal undertaking from French tenor and baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro. Lazro, whose story of uncompromising individualism and restricted cult acceptance, could be the Gallic filmic remake of McPhee’s version original. Like fraternal organization members from far away who recognize similar convictions in one another, they’ve collaborated since the early 1990s. MORE

July 26, 2016

Joe McPhee

Alone Together
Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD021

Looking back from an early 21st Century vantage point the audacity of recording an LP of solo and overdubbed reed and brass improvisations may appear less radical then it was then. After all commercial overdubbing had been around for years and solo LPs sans rhythm sections had already appeared from Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker, among others. But from the relative obscurity of West Park, N.Y. in 1974 and (mostly) 1979, with the help of his friend Craig Johnson, here was Joe McPhee, then known, if at all, for his releases on the then hard-to-fund Swiss hat Hurt label, multiplying skills as if he was organizing a meeting between members of the World Saxophone Quartet and Brass Fantasy. MORE

April 2, 2016

Universal Indians/Joe McPhee

Skullduggery
Clean Feed CF 382 CD

Dikeman Noble Serries Trio

Obscure Fluctuations

Trost TR 134

Having relocated to Amsterdam in 2007, Wyoming raised saxophonist John Dikeman has become an established part of that scene, playing with bands such as Cactus Truck and with members of the Ex. Like a translator who retains fluency in several languages, the saxophonist maintains intensity in his playing in all setting, but has developed what could be termed parallel European and American strategies. Since both CDs here bubble with the same kind of percolating excitement, each scenario is equally valid. MORE

March 7, 2016

Label Spotlight

Corbett vs. Dempsey
By Ken Waxman

As commerce continues to be divided between mass and class, the music business has followed suit. On one side are the remaining major record companies turning out “product” as cheaply and quickly as they can, and on the other so-called boutique labels whose releases are selected and manufactured with the utmost care. One of the quirkiest of the latter is Corbett vs. Dempsey (CvD), a decade-old Chicago-based imprint that along with a publishing outlet is a division of an art gallery co-owned by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey. CvD has so far put out 25 discs, ranging from reissues of major LPs by Joe McPhee and Peter Brötzmann to obscurities by the likes of George Davis and Staffan Harde to brand-new CDs by Thurston Moore and Mats Gustaffsson. MORE

February 11, 2016

Joe McPhee

Ticonderoga
Clean Feed 345 CD

Ran Blake

Ghost Tones

A side 0001

Bennani/Greene/Silva/Henderson

Free Form Improvisatio Ensemble 2013

Improvising Beings ib 40

Lvio Minafra/Louis Moholo-Moholo

Born Free

Nicipic Records Inc 2013

Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink

Welcome Back

Intakt 254

Something In The Air: Advanced Jazz’s Fountain of Youth

By Ken Waxman

One common shibboleth of mid-20th century creative music was that “jazz was a young man’s art”. Putting aside the sexism implicit in the statement, the idea denied jazz musicians the sort of late career acclaim that notated music masters like Pablo Casals and Vladimir Horowitz enjoyed. Times have more than changed. Expanded from the Baby Boomer cliché that “50 is the new 30”, and its upwards affiliations, career longevity is now taken for granted in all serious music. These CDs recorded by improvised musicians in their seventies attest to that. MORE

January 6, 2016

Rodrigo Amado

This Is Our Language
Not Two MW 922-2

Giovanni di Domenico/Peter Jacquemyn/Chris Corsano

A Little Off the Top

NoBusiness NBLP 88

By Ken Waxman

Stints with popsters like Sunburned Hand of Man and Björk in the late aughts hasn’t affected drummer Chris Corsano’s skill in contributing to improvised sessions. Instead the Massachusetts native, converted to free music after witnessing incendiary performances by Cecil Taylor and William Parker, brings the same animation and restraint to these discs as he’s used on dates with sound explorers including Evan Parker, Paul Flaherty and Akira Sakata. MORE

December 11, 2015

Festival Report

Krakow Jazz Autumn
By Ken Waxman

Krakow’s Kazimierz district, which includes Poland’s oldest standing synagogue building, and architecture dating mostly from the 18th century, was early on a centre of intellectual ferment, and more recently known for its large concentration of bars and restaurants. But it’s likely that rarely has the area witnessed such an open display of power and emotion as took place during German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s four-day residency November 5 to 8 at the basement Alchemia Club during Krakow Jazz Autumn. MORE

November 16, 2015

Label Spotlight

PNL Records
By Ken Waxman

Clichés frequently contain a kernel of truth. For instance apply the adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself” to drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s Oslo-based PNL record label and the bromide makes perfect sense. Although recording for other imprints – which he still does – since the early ‘90s, by 2007 Nilssen-Love had so many projects he wanted to expose that he decided to become a label owner himself.

“I wanted to be more hands on,” he recalls. “Already in 2007 I was on several labels with various bands which is fine enough, but I wanted to do things myself. I wouldn’t say that I had been chasing labels with a ton of recordings but I figured that I couldn’t depend on other labels to have the music released. There´s also a long tradition of musicians putting out records themselves. You’re in full – well almost – control of the product and if something goes wrong, you’re the one to blame. It makes things easier that way.” MORE

April 7, 2015

Label Spotlight

Trost
By Ken Waxman

Vienna’s punk-noise scene of the’90s with underground clubs, fanzines and tape labels did more than advance the career of avant-rock bands. Trost Records was nurtured in that DIY atmosphere so that nearly a quarter-century later it has become a major presence in jazz, releasing discs by the likes of Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark. This happened because a university student/journalist, working part time at one club, plus a couple of friends, felt the city’s musicians needed more exposure. “There were so many great young bands but basically only two labels in Vienna put out punk hardcore or gothic/rock. No one released weird things, noise, mixed genres,” recalls Konstantin Drobil, Trost’s owner. “But I wanted to put out music that touched me in a certain way, no matter what genre.” MORE

March 13, 2015

Mats Gustafsson NU Ensemble

Hidros 6 - Knockin’
Not Two MW 915

Yves Charuest and Ellwood Epps

La Passe

Small Scale Music SM 005

Pierre Yves Martel/Phillippe Lauzier

Sainct Laurens Volume 2

E-tron Records ETRC 019

Barry Guy

Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett

NoBusiness Records NBEP 2

Something In The Air: Unusual Formats for New Music

By Ken Waxman

Everything old is new again doesn’t go quite far enough in describing formats now available for disseminating music. Not only are downloads and streaming becoming preferred options, but CDs are still being pressed at the same time as musicians experiment with DVDs, vinyl variants and even tape cassettes. Happily the significance of the musical messages outweighs the media multiplicity. MORE

July 17, 2014

Foussat, Guérineau & McPhee

Quod
Fou Records FR-CD 05

Tusques/Grimal/Guerineau

La Jungle du Douquanier Rousseau

Improvising Beings IB 24

All types of creative music are populated with unsung heroes, no more so than Free Jazz. Never a popular exercise, experimental improvising by definition has attracted those who value discovery over fortune and fame and are unafraid to be mocked for not taking easier, better-paying path. Someone who is gifted with enough intestinal fortitude to stay true to himself is tenor saxophonist Sylvain Guérineau, 67, who lives in a Paris suburb and is also a painter and teacher. Someone whose initial recorded efforts were in the company of Free Jazz legends such as drummer Sunny Murray, trumpeter Jac Berrocal and others, since the millennium he’s often recorded with Paris-based engineers/electronics whiz Jean-Marc Foussat as well, as with younger sound experimenters such as Bordeaux percussionist Didier Lasserre. MORE

May 9, 2014

Joe McPhee

Nation Time - The Complete Recordings
Corbett vs Dempsey CvD CD 011

By Ken Waxman

Hard to imagine when acknowledging trumpeter/saxophonist Joe McPhee’s present day mastery as a cerebral improviser, but there was a time when the Poughkeepsie-NY native was a jazz-funk proponent as well. The evidence is captured on many tracks here. Consisting of sessions from ’69 and ’70, this four-CD box set not only includes the originally issued Nation Time and Black Magic Man LPs in their entirety, but also 17 tracks previously unreleased on CD. Here is the earliest recorded McPhee, in a funky night club setting playing trumpet on bop standards like “Milestones”. Even more astounding are tracks taped at the same concerts that produced Nation Time where an eight-piece ensemble, including two electric keyboards and two percussionist, work out on James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”. MORE

April 18, 2014

Evan Parker & Joe McPhee

What/If/They Both Could Fly
Rune Grammofon RCD 2149CD

Joe McPhee-Paal Nilssen-Love

Red Sky

PNL 016

Survival Unit III

Game Theory

NotTwo MW 907-2

Nearly 40 years after his first recording session there seems to be little that American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, 74, can’t express on his saxophones or pocket trumpet. But the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based experimental musician keeps challenging himself in new situations. Each of the small group CDs here, recorded over a four year period, is excellent in its own way, and on each McPhee brings the proper horn(s) and mind set to create high quality improvisations. Additionally each is distinctive enough to set it apart from the others and confirm McPhee’s status as an original. MORE

April 18, 2014

Survival Unit III

Game Theory
NotTwo MW 907-2

Joe McPhee-Paal Nilssen-Love

Red Sky

PNL 016

Evan Parker & Joe McPhee

What/If/They Both Could Fly

Rune Grammofon RCD 2149CD

Nearly 40 years after his first recording session there seems to be little that American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, 74, can’t express on his saxophones or pocket trumpet. But the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based experimental musician keeps challenging himself in new situations. Each of the small group CDs here, recorded over a four year period, is excellent in its own way, and on each McPhee brings the proper horn(s) and mind set to create high quality improvisations. Additionally each is distinctive enough to set it apart from the others and confirm McPhee’s status as an original. MORE

April 18, 2014

Joe McPhee-Paal Nilssen-Love

Red Sky
PNL 016

Evan Parker & Joe McPhee

What/If/They Both Could Fly

Rune Grammofon RCD 2149CD

Survival Unit III

Game Theory

NotTwo MW 907-2

Nearly 40 years after his first recording session there seems to be little that American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, 74, can’t express on his saxophones or pocket trumpet. But the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based experimental musician keeps challenging himself in new situations. Each of the small group CDs here, recorded over a four year period, is excellent in its own way, and on each McPhee brings the proper horn(s) and mind set to create high quality improvisations. Additionally each is distinctive enough to set it apart from the others and confirm McPhee’s status as an original. MORE

December 13, 2013

Trespass Trio + Joe McPhee

Human Encore
Clean Feed CF 269 CD

The idea of someone able to reference both baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s Cool Jazz meetings with altoist Lee Konitz and the parameters of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary quartet with pocket trumpeter Don Cherry may appear far-fetched. But that doesn’t count on the chameleon-like talents of American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee.

Not that McPhee in any way imitates either of these storied ensembles, but when he uses either his pocket trumpet or tenor saxophone to twin with Swedish Martin Küchen’s baritone or alto saxophones the perceptions are striking. The most open of improvisers, McPhee, like Küchen, and like the other members of the Trespass Trio: bassist Per Zanussi and drummer Raymond Strid is fully committed to so-called Free Jazz. But like Anthony Braxton, he has a wide appreciation for earlier concepts as well. MORE

September 9, 2013

On DVD

Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (PanRec/Trost Records)

By Ken Waxman
Passion is an adjective often associated with German sax avatar Peter Brötzmann, especially as on this DVD, you can see as well as hear the efforts that go into producing his gut-busting sounds. Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011 is a valuable addition to the saxophonist’s cannon for not only focusing on the passion behind his playing and that of the other musicians featured in this 75-minute live concert from an Austrian festival. The DVD also highlights Brötzmann’s compassion as well. Always politically engaged the Wuppertal-based reedist asked four Japanese innovators to play with the Chicago Tentet that night with all proceeds from the gigs going to two organizations aiding the victims of the then recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. MORE

July 15, 2013

Joe McPhee Trio

First Date
CJR-8

Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten

Brooklyn DNA

Clean Feed CF 244 CD

Persistent in his exploration of fresh musical currents in the improvised tradition, multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee remains indefatigable 46 years after his first recording and as he settles into his eighth decade. Comfortably conversant in any sized ensemble, from his justly renowned solo discs to his long-time membership in Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, the Poughkeepsie, New York resident usually does his most profound work in smaller configurations. Take these high-quality CDs, recorded at four different years. MORE

July 15, 2013

Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten

Brooklyn DNA
Clean Feed CF 244 CD

Joe McPhee Trio

First Date

CJR-8

Persistent in his exploration of fresh musical currents in the improvised tradition, multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee remains indefatigable 46 years after his first recording and as he settles into his eighth decade. Comfortably conversant in any sized ensemble, from his justly renowned solo discs to his long-time membership in Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, the Poughkeepsie, New York resident usually does his most profound work in smaller configurations. Take these high-quality CDs, recorded at four different years. MORE

April 6, 2013

Label Spotlight

Bo’Weavil
By Ken Waxman

Although he states “jazz has always been my first love” when Mark Morris founded London-based Bo’Weavil records in 2004 it was with the conviction that “the walls between genres are coming down”. Because of that, over the years the label has released 57 different titles, on LP and CD, mixing traditional British and American folk music, with modern singer/guitarists sessions along with a hearty helping of free jazz.

“A lot of people who listen to a lot of free music also listen to a lot of traditional music, there’s a link in the authenticity of the music,” adds Morris. “If you listen to records by C Joynes & The Restless Dead for example, [represented by seven Bo’Weavil releases] some quiet different compositions are equally influenced by ethnic folk forms from let’s say Africa or the music of Albert Ayler. [Progressive composer/fiddler] Henry Flynt was certainly influenced by the wealth of avant-garde music, be that free improve, electo-acoustic composers or minimalist composers like Morton Feldman. Flynt became interested in applying minimalist principles to American folk music. MORE

July 21, 2012

McPhee/Bishop/Håker Flaten/Zerang

Ibsen’s Ghosts
NotTwo MW 876-2

Rich Halley Quartet

Requiem for a Pit Viper

Pine Eagle Records 003

Now that – neo-cons be damned – Free Improvisation has a half century of history behind it, canny or committed musicians can decide just how supposedly far out they want to be in their playing. Take the two sessions here. With identical instrumentation and recorded within a year of one another, the quartet on the first CD has decided to stick to compositions in the song form while the other opts for almost total abstractions. Neither provides the last word – or is it timbre– on what makes up a definite program of advanced music, but each has come up with a strategy for creating profound, un-clichéd sounds. MORE

January 5, 2012

Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang

Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Suite)
No Business Records NBCD 32

Alexey Kruglov/Vladimir Tarasov

In Tempo

SoLyd Records SoLyd 0404

Bad Luck

Two

Table & Chairs T&C 006

By Ken Waxman

For reasons of tradition, challenge and economy, the saxophone/percussion session has been a stable of freer jazz ever since the duets of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali or Evan Parker and Paul Lytton. How much these duets impress depends on how many original twists are brought to the formula.

With bravado, Seattle’s Bad Luck uses each of its CDs to display a different take on duo work. Hard-edged and audacious, Bats, the first CD, is as firmly wedded to energy music as if it was recorded in 1967. Throughout Neil Welch ejaculates altissimo split tones and doubled reed bites from his tenor and soprano saxophone with enough spittle and glottal punctuation to suggest a northwest amalgam of Charles Gayle and Albert Ayler. Artless and primitivist in his pounding, drummer Chris Icasiano, smashes drum tops and punches cymbals repeatedly. Although there’s a certain punkish attraction in measuring how far feline yowls, diaphragm-vibrated multiphonics and banshee screams can push the horn before the reed explodes or Welch coughs blood, contradictory sequences on some of the seven tracks are more satisfying. “Sunbeam” features affiliated tones that resemble bagpipe-chanter echoes, while on “Lure” not only does circular breathing reference harmonica buzzes, but Icasiano’s bass drum smacks and tom-tom rattles introduce a shamanistic airiness. MORE

March 14, 2011

Tell No Lies Claim No Easy Victories

Edited by Phillipp Schmickl
Impro 2000

ECM 40th Anniversary Catalogue

Edited by Kenny Inaoka

Tokyo Kirarasha

As globalization intensifies, American-birthed popular music forms – most especially Jazz and Improvised Music – have evolved far beyond their initial audiences, confirming one of the hoariest of clichés, that music is a universal language. Creative music of many stripes has for many years been often treated more seriously in Europe and Asia than in North America. Consequently to be truly informed about the breadth of musical sounds it helps to understand other languages besides English. That’s the challenge related to the valuable books here. Neither is published primarily in English, but both can serve as resources for followers of Jazz and Improvised Music, no matter their native tongues. MORE

February 27, 2011

Decoy & Joe McPhee

Oto
Bo Weavil Recordings 041 CD

Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Blues Chicago Blues

NotTwo MW 841-2

Despite a recording career which stretches back to 1968, saxophonist Joe McPhee shows no signs of slowing down, even as he reaches the age of 71. If anything newly recorded CDs such as these show that his improvisational and interpretative skills are even more advanced than in the past.

Notably enough his talents are on display here in two of Jazz’s most orthodox settings: as part of an organ combo on Oto, and on a program reflecting the conventions and sensations of the Blues, on the almost too obviously titled Blues Chicago Blues. As idiomatically American as these contexts may be, it’s probably also significant that all of his associates here are European: Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on Blues Chicago Blues, and three Londoners – Hammond organ player Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards and percussionist Steve Noble – who make up Decoy, on Oto. MORE

February 27, 2011

Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Blues Chicago Blues
NotTwo MW 841-2

Decoy & Joe McPhee

Oto

Bo Weavil Recordings 041 CD

Despite a recording career which stretches back to 1968, saxophonist Joe McPhee shows no signs of slowing down, even as he reaches the age of 71. If anything newly recorded CDs such as these show that his improvisational and interpretative skills are even more advanced than in the past.

Notably enough his talents are on display here in two of Jazz’s most orthodox settings: as part of an organ combo on Oto, and on a program reflecting the conventions and sensations of the Blues, on the almost too obviously titled Blues Chicago Blues. As idiomatically American as these contexts may be, it’s probably also significant that all of his associates here are European: Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on Blues Chicago Blues, and three Londoners – Hammond organ player Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards and percussionist Steve Noble – who make up Decoy, on Oto. MORE

December 9, 2010

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo
Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)

Mode Avant 9/12

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds

ESP-Disk 4062

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

August 12, 2010

McPhee/Brötzmann/Kessler/Zerang

The Damage Is Done: The Whole Session
Not Two MW 823-2

Mellow is not the first word you associate with German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. And on the evidence of this live, fire-breathing two-CD set, the sedate blandness that many associate with getting older don’t seems to affected Brötzmann as he hones in on his 70th birthday.

Listening to the energy and inventiveness displayed by the players on this six-track set recorded in a Krakow, the Steve Lacy adage that “Free Jazz keeps you young” is proven one again. Besides the Wuppertal-based saxophonist, who expresses himself fortissimo and often staccatissimo on alto and tenor saxophone, tarogato and Bb clarinet, are the mercurial styling of Upstate New York’s Joe McPhee, who divides his talents between pocket trumpet and alto saxophone – and who is now also in his 70th year. Chicago’s bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang who are either side of the half-century mark almost struggle to keep up. Like one of John Coltrane’s marathon live recordings, these two sets from the Alchemia club capture every note played on that night. Courtesy of Brötzmann, the output is scarcely minimalist. Yet the commitment and skills of the four are as evident as the final notes fade as they are in the first notes of the mammoth – 30½-minute – first and title track. MORE

October 6, 2009

Ensemble Normand Guilbeault

Hommage à Mingus: Live at Upstairs
Ambiance Magnétiques AM 185

Davis/Ulrich/Baumann/Lutek/Richards/Jefferson

Urs Blöchlinger Tribute

Pet Mantis Records PMR 004

i.overdrive trio

Hommage à Syd Barrett

Imuzzic CRCD 0821

Joe McPhee

Angels, Devils & Haints

CJR 7

Extended Play: Honoring Musical Influences

By Ken Waxman

Mentors and heroes have been celebrated musically for years. In improvised music however, interpretations are more individual, the choice of honorees is quirkier, but the sounds are as impressive – as these CDs demonstrate. MORE

October 6, 2009

i.overdrive trio

Hommage à Syd Barrett
Imuzzic CRCD 0821

Joe McPhee

Angels, Devils & Haints

CJR 7

Ensemble Normand Guilbeaul
t

Hommage à Mingus: Live at Upstairs

Ambiance Magnétiques AM 185

Davis/Ulrich/Baumann/Lutek/Richards/Jefferson

Urs Blöchlinger Tribute

Pet Mantis Records PMR 004

Extended Play: Honoring Musical Influences

By Ken Waxman

Mentors and heroes have been celebrated musically for years. In improvised music however, interpretations are more individual, the choice of honorees is quirkier, but the sounds are as impressive – as these CDs demonstrate. MORE

October 6, 2009

Davis/Ulrich/Baumann/Lutek/Richards/Jefferson

Urs Blöchlinger Tribute
Pet Mantis Records PMR 004

Joe McPhee

Angels, Devils & Haints

CJR 7

Ensemble Normand Guilbeault

Hommage à Mingus: Live at Upstairs

Ambiance Magnétiques AM 185

i.overdrive trio

Hommage à Syd Barrett

Imuzzic CRCD 0821

Extended Play: Honoring Musical Influences

By Ken Waxman

Mentors and heroes have been celebrated musically for years. In improvised music however, interpretations are more individual, the choice of honorees is quirkier, but the sounds are as impressive – as these CDs demonstrate. MORE

October 6, 2009

Joe McPhee

Angels, Devils & Haints
CJR 7

Ensemble Normand Guilbeault

Hommage à Mingus: Live at Upstairs

Ambiance Magnétiques AM 185

Davis/Ulrich/Baumann/Lutek/Richards/Jefferson

Urs Blöchlinger Tribute

Pet Mantis Records PMR 004

i.overdrive trio

Hommage à Syd Barrett

Imuzzic CRCD 0821

Extended Play: Honoring Musical Influences

By Ken Waxman

Mentors and heroes have been celebrated musically for years. In improvised music however, interpretations are more individual, the choice of honorees is quirkier, but the sounds are as impressive – as these CDs demonstrate. MORE

November 1, 2008

Jeb Bishop/Harris Eisenstadt/Jason Roebke

Tiebreaker
Not Two MW 789-2

Michael Bates’ Outside Sources

Clockwise

Greenleaf Music 09

Francois Carrier/Michel Lambert/ Jean-Jacques Avenel

Within

Leo CD LR 512

John Heward-Joe McPhee

Voices: 10 Improvisations

Mode Avant 05

Expatriates or homebodies, Canadian improvisers interact with many first-class players from and in any country. The results can be imposing, even if there’s nothing intrinsically Canuck about the music. MORE

November 1, 2008

John Heward-Joe McPhee

Voices: 10 Improvisations
Mode Avant 05

Jeb Bishop/Harris Eisenstadt/Jason Roebke

Tiebreaker

Not Two MW 789-2

Michael Bates’ Outside Sources

Clockwise

Greenleaf Music 09

Francois Carrier/Michel Lambert/ Jean-Jacques Avenel

Within

Leo CD LR 512

Expatriates or homebodies, Canadian improvisers interact with many first-class players from and in any country. The results can be imposing, even if there’s nothing intrinsically Canuck about the music. MORE

November 1, 2008

Francois Carrier/Michel Lambert/ Jean-Jacques Avenel

Within
Leo CD LR 512

Jeb Bishop/Harris Eisenstadt/Jason Roebke

Tiebreaker

Not Two MW 789-2

Michael Bates’ Outside Sources

Clockwise

Greenleaf Music 09

John Heward-Joe McPhee

Voices: 10 Improvisations

Mode Avant 05

Expatriates or homebodies, Canadian improvisers interact with many first-class players from and in any country. The results can be imposing, even if there’s nothing intrinsically Canuck about the music. MORE

November 1, 2008

Michael Bates’ Outside Sources

Clockwise
Greenleaf Music 09

Jeb Bishop/Harris Eisenstadt/Jason Roebke

Tiebreaker

Not Two MW 789-2

Francois Carrier/Michel Lambert/ Jean-Jacques Avenel

Within

Leo CD LR 512

John Heward-Joe McPhee

Voices: 10 Improvisations

Mode Avant 05

Expatriates or homebodies, Canadian improvisers interact with many first-class players from and in any country. The results can be imposing, even if there’s nothing intrinsically Canuck about the music. MORE

August 5, 2008

Joe Giardullo Open Ensemble

Red Morocco
Rogue Art ROG-0012

Highly orchestrated, multi-faceted and engrossing, Red Morocco is a breakthrough large-form suite composed by veteran reed player Joe Giardullo. It rationally illustrates how his notated ideas can be interpreted by a group of 14 American and Canadian improvisers.

Largely self-taught as a composer and instrumentalist, Giardullo’s interest in musical creation was fed by an appreciation for Stockhausen, Berio and Indian music, study of George Russell’s Lydian Theory of Tonal Organization; plus playing situations with Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, Lester Lanin (!) Peg Leg Bates (!!) Pauline Oliveros and others. It reaches inventive fruition with this 10-part creation. MORE

October 2, 2006

JOE MCPHEE/MATT SHIPP/DOMINIC DUVAL

In Finland
Cadence CJR 1186

BONI/LAZRO/MCPHEE/TCHAMITCHIAN
Next To You
émouvance émv 1023

By Ken Waxman

Recorded five months apart in 2004, these sessions confirm one again the apparently endless adaptability of multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee. NEXT TO YOU is the first time the Poughkeepsie, N.Y. native has recorded with his French quartet after 12 years of its existence. IN FINLAND on the other hand is a classic one-off festival gig in Raahe, where pianist Matthew Shipp joins the long-established duo of McPhee and bassist Dominic Duval. Both have something unique to offer. MORE

September 25, 2006

JOE MCPHEE/JOHN SNYDER

Pieces of Light
Atavistic Unheard Music Series ALP 256 CD

By Ken Waxman

An interesting, but decidedly minor work, this reissue of a 1974 LP is mostly memorable as a record of multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee’s improvisational strength even at that early date.

Unfortunately partner John Snyder, using a model 2600 ARP synthesizer shows the limitations of early electronic apparatus. This is in contrast to McPhee, who at that early date was both experimenting with and refining the techniques he uses today; and trying others he would subsequently abandon such as playing on vestigial sound sources like e-flat alto horn, modified harp and wind chimes. MORE

January 2, 2006

PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET

Be Music, Night
OkkaDisk OD 12059

This CD may ruin saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s long-held reputation as the ferocious, hard-hearted wild man of Free Jazz.

For the entire hour-plus CD by the German reedman’s mostly Chicago-based band is designed as homage to American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972). Additionally, the longest – more than 42 minutes – of the three tracks features mellifluous-voiced Welsh poet Mike Pearson integrated into the ensemble reading selections from Patchen’s work that are, for all intents and purposes, love poems. MORE

December 26, 2005

JOE MCPHEE

Remembrance
CJR-5

“We pretty much play whatever we want to play ... and you can call it whatever you want,” declares multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, before he and two cohorts launch into “Remembrance (closing) for Steve Lacy”, which winds up the notable series of improvisations on this CD.

A succinct definition of Free Music, serendipitously the statement also sums up the circumstances of this October 2001 gig in Seattle. Affected by post 9-11 nerves saxophonist Charles Gayle cancelled a scheduled duo performance with bassist Mike Bisio. The last minute solution was adding the bassist to the already touring duo of McPhee, who had often performed with Bisio, and French guitarist Raymond Boni, a musical partner of the reedist for about 25 years. Not only did the three meld into one unit, but one track also involves Boni in an unrehearsed duet with Seattle poet Paul Harding. MORE

July 1, 2005

Hallwalls' New Home

For CODA

A unique arrangement between an American folk-punk singer-songwriter and a longtime bastion of experimental arts means that Western New York’s centre for creative music will have a new, architecturally impressive home in downtown Buffalo by October, 2005.

Hallwalls, a nonprofit arts organization, which for more than 30 years has been the place where innovative art, film and music – especially non-mainstream jazz – has been presented, moves into the expanded first-floor and basement-level facilities in a historically preserved church as a tenant of Righteous Babe Records (RBR). RBR is the folk-punk mini conglomerate that has grown out of the successful career of singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, a Buffalo native, will have its offices on the second floor. MORE

December 6, 2004

PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET

Signs
Okkadisk OD 12048

MS4
PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET
Images
Okkadisk OD 12047

More than five years after it was first organized, German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s mostly Chicago-populated Tentet has become a welcomed presence on the international improv scene.

In the tradition of the Globe Unity Orchestra -- of which Brötzmann was also a member -- the reed-heavy band plays long, involved compositions more concerned with spur of the moment interpretation than elaborate arrangements. Yet, as this matched set of live and studio material demonstrates, the 10-piece band actually sounds best when organized patterns and section work are added to the massed firepower. MORE

November 8, 2004

JOE MCPHEE/JÉRÔME BOURDELLON

Manhattan Tango
Label Usine 1008

MALIK/MCPHEE/ROBINSON
Sympathy
Boxholder BXH 045

Different instruments are featured -- including a drum set on the trio session -- but the two CDs here still offer up slices of chamber improv featuring Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee. His presence alone is a guarantee that proceedings will be out-of-the-ordinary, although none of the other participants are particularly mainstream.

SYMPATHY’s mainman is Vermont-based trumpeter Raphe Malik, an associate of pianist Cecil Taylor and the late saxophonist Glenn Spearman. Bay area drummer Donald Robinson -- who also played with Spearman, as well as bassist Lisle Ellis and saxophonist Larry Ochs -- is the third partner. MORE

June 28, 2004

FONDA/MCPHEE/WHITE/KARETNCK

Heat Suite
Konnex KCD 5122

JIM RYAN’S FORWARD ENERGY
The Concept
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1162

Think of Energy Music in the United States like the committed American Left.

Although denounced as an unfashionable anachronism or a contemptible spent force by bombastic conservative commentators, grass roots organizations unexpectedly assert themselves at the local or national level when events swing too far towards the Right.

It’s the same thing with so called Energy Music, Free Jazz or what in the 1960s was called the New Thing. Always treated with contempt by the established mainstreamers of the day, it was derided as a passing fad almost from the time it was first heard. Today jazz’s neo-cons call it old hat with the same disdain that political neo-cons dismiss the New Deal and the unionization. MORE

January 19, 2004

STEVE LACY

The Beat Suite
Sunnyside/Enja SSC 3012

DEEP LISTENING BAND/JOE MCPHEE QUARTET
Unquenchable Fire
Deep Listening DL 19-2003

Blending music and texts -- either poetry or prose -- has never been a particularly easy task, especially when the music involved is improvised. Yet for the past 50 years at least, variations of the concept have been tried with various degrees of success.

Among his other sonic inquiries, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy has turned his hand to text-based material for many years; he has been able to utilize the voice of his partner Irene Aebi as his speaker/vocalist since the late 1960s. THE BEAT SUITE is his most recent grapple with the concept -- and one that is particularly apt. The words, which intermingle with the music here, were written by 10 of the most accomplished Beat versifiers. All had or have an affinity for improvised music and most were known personally by either Lacy or Abei. MORE

December 15, 2003

JOE GIARDULLO 4TET

Now Is
Drimala DR-03-347-02

ALBERTO PINTON/FREDRIK NORDSTRÖM
Dog Out
Moserobie MMPCD 013

Splitting combo leadership between a couple of sax players has been a jazz natural ever since the days of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt in the late 1940s. With another reedman on side, not only is there a second horn to add polyphonic harmonic and tonal emphasis to a session, but dividing up the front line between two woodwind players seems to free the reed soloist even more than if his running buddy was playing a different instrument. MORE

August 4, 2003

JOE MCPHEE/BILL SMITH ENSEMBLE

Visitation
Boxholder BXH 034

LEO SMITH/BILL SMITH ENSEMBLE
Rastafari
Boxholder BXH 035

Long before its present infamy -- for Americans -- as home for runaway TV and movie productions and North American SARS headquarters, hipper types knew that Toronto was a welcoming refuge for U.S. jazzers -- from the most traditional to the most avant garde.

For the later, one particular purple patch began in the mid-1970s, when local Sackville records first took it upon itself to document the work of American experimenters such as multi-reedist Anthony Braxton. The label’s commitment to the style continued into the early 1980s -- it has since turned more mainstream -- when these memorable discs were cut. Woodstock, Vt.’s Boxholder label has reissued both CDs. Other outside Sackville sessions from the same time are being reissued in limited editions by the Toronto label itself. MORE

June 23, 2003

EVAN PARKER/JOE MCPHEE

Chicago Tenor Duets
OkkaDisk OD 12033

BARRY GUY-EVAN PARKER
Birds and Blades
Intakt Double CD 080

Two more aural essays on the subtle art of the duo, these CDs feature three improvisers who long ago proved that they can hold their own in musical situations involving any size of band.

Connection between the two discs comes from the presence of British saxophonist Evan Parker, who with his philosophical theories and technical mastery has been producing intelligent commentary on reed advancement since the mid-1960s. On BIRDS AND BLADES, A two-CD set recorded in Zürich in 2001, he’s partnered with longtime confrere bassist Barry Guy. Another cerebral experimenter, the bassist and the sax man have worked in contexts from big bands to duos for years, with their first duo meeting taking place in 1981. MORE

March 24, 2003

TRIO-X

In Black and White
Cadence Jazz Records JR 1144

MARK WHITECAGE TRIO The Paper Trail
Acoustics #ELE 413CD

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when New York jazzers wanted the perfect rhythm section, they usually made sure it included virtuosic bassist Paul Chamber and inventive drummer Art Taylor, or at least one of them. The same sort of situation seems to exist in advanced improvisational circles today, with bassist Dominic Duval and percussionist Jay Rosen, singly and together contributing their talents to numberless CDs. MORE

January 22, 2003

MANERI ENSEMBLE

Going To Church
AUM Fidelity AUM 024

MAT MANERI
Sustain
Thirsty Ear THI 57122.2

Substantial slices of Maneri music, these two new CDs prove that while violist Mat Manner has internalized the quirky cogitation and execution of his father, reedist Joe Maneri, he’s not adverse to testing out some ideas of his own in different contexts.

Father-son improvisers are nothing new on the jazz scene and have ranged from boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and his funky tenor saxophonist son Gene Ammons to mainstream pianist Ellis Marsalis and his progeny. But few offspring are as inculcated in his father’s music, as Mat -- born in 1969 -- who began playing music with his father when he was only seven. It’s hardly necessary to point out that Joe -- born in 1927 -- was no mainstream Marsalis. A jobbing musician for years with an interest in ethnic, microtonal and 12-tone composition as well as jazz improvisation, his talent finally got him a gig teaching theory and composition at Boston’s New England Conservatory in 1970. But his single-mindedness left him unrecorded until his belated emergence in the mid-1990s. MORE

June 22, 2002

GIARDULLO/MCPHEE/BISIO/TABBAL

Shadow & Light
Drimala DR 02-347-01

Isn’t there some cliché that states that “out of great tragedy comes art”, or something like that? Well that’s only partially true. Art shackled to the reflection of a cataclysmic event is as likely to appear as a polemic or agit-prop. Having the right opinions or feeling strongly about a situation doesn’t automatically elevate your creation to a masterpiece. Any number of folk ditties or punk rock snarls can be cited as evidence.

Sometimes -- though not always -- purely instrumental music will offer enough distance from the event to raise the believability stakes. Certainly the four veteran improvisers represented on SHADOWS & LIGHT show this. Strictly by chance, the recording session for this CD was scheduled for September 11, 2001 in upstate New York. After jazz economics convinced them not to cancel -- bassist Mike Bisio, on tour with other band members, lives in Seattle -- the group went along and recorded some of the most moving, yet joyful music to reflect the events of that day. Yet because these men are thinking improvisers rather than propagandists, the emotions have to be intuited from the impassioned playing, not descriptive titles or shouted slogans. MORE

June 7, 2002

PETER BRÖTZMANN TENTET PLUS TWO

Short Visit To Nowhere
Okka Disk OD 12043

PETER BRÖTZMANN TENTET PLUS TWO
Broken English
Okka Disk OD 12044

Three years after it was first organized and a year after it first toured, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet (Plus Two in this case) displays, in these 2000 recordings, that it has become an exemplary example of how to adopt free improv to large aggregations.

With a mixed cast of seven Chicagoans, three members from New York state, a Swede and Brötzmann, a German, it has all the firepower of a traditional big band with its eight horns. Plus, the three-man string section and two percussionists ensure that not only is its bottom covered -- so to speak -- but that the strings can alternately meld with the horns or shore up the rhythm section. Also, while the German reedman wrote two of the compositions, he’s democratic enough to make room for one piece each by Chicago multi-woodwind player Ken Vandermark, Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson and Chicago cellist/violinist Fred Lonberg-Holm. MORE

April 5, 2002

JOE MCPHEE

Mister Peabody Goes To Baltimore
Recorded 005

JACK WRIGHT/BOB FALESCH

Clang

ZeroEggzie Ox-2bdf

Synthesis has characterized improvised music over the past couple of years, as new media has finally caught up with its true reach. Unlike multinational corporations that use convergence and globalization as code words for ensuring their products are forced upon the masses in the strip malls of the entire world, improv actually is a global phenomenon.

Today, the growth of the Internet plus the ability to create less expensive CDs has allowed the isolated pockets of like-minded performers to get in contact with one another and their listeners. Audiences may still be tiny by pop music standards, but players and venues now have an easier time communicating with one another. Most importantly, with the creation of many improv festivals in North America and Europe, musicians can have something resembling a career, if they’re willing to always be on the road and to sell their CDs from the stand. MORE

September 3, 2001

Trio X

On tour … toronto/rochester
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1134

Accurately named, this cooperative group shouldn't be thought of as Joe McPhee's trio. For the contributions of bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen -- the Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones of American new jazz -- are as important to the success of this CD as the work of multi-instrumentalist McPhee.

Recorded live, mostly in Toronto, this nearly 74-minute session shows how the three can transfix audiences by working together to recast what's usually thought of as familiar material in such a way that so-called standards are made new. Plus, at the same time, the original tunes they perform contain enough interlocking compositional edges so that they're easily attached to a musical whole. MORE

April 24, 2001

JOE MCPHEE

Trinity
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 214 CD

At this point in his career it's time to "out" Joe McPhee. It turns out that the cerebral multi-instrumentalist, best known for his pioneering compositional interactions with equally highbrow Europeans, had a past association with rough trade.

Well, maybe not rough trade so much, but as this CD demonstrates, rough edges. For in 1971, when this reissues was first waxed in a church parish hall, McPhee appeared to be screaming saxophonist, very much in the Pharoah Sanders mold, working out with bombastic drummer Harold E. Smith and sensitive pianist Mike Kull.

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January 25, 2001

JOE MCPHEE/HAMID DRAKE

Emancipation Proclamation
Okka Disk OD 12036

Recorded in front of an enthusiastic Chicago crowd two years ago, this CD is an object lesson in how to create an effective program of free music.

Of course it helps that the participants are two of the most accomplished players in that idiom. There's Hamid Drake, MVP (most valuable percussionist) for everyone from bassist William Parker to saxophonists Fred Anderson and Peter Brötzmann; and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, who over the past three decades has turned out an impressive body of work while remaining true to his own vision.

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July 22, 2000

JOE MCPHEE

Nation Time
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 205 CD

This reissued CD is going to shock a lot of people who think they know all about Joe McPhee.

It turns out that the cerebral composer and multi-instrumentalist, best known for exemplary, European-inflected chamber-jazz excursions in the 1980s and 1990s, had a completely different earlier history.

NATION TIME, recorded in 1971, reveals McPhee's talents as a Black nationalist-rooted souljazzer whose compositions were as embedded in the cadences of electric pianos and electric basses, as the mature McPhee revels in pure improv. Exposing the saxophonist/trumpeter's inner Shaft doesn't diminish him as a musician, however. As a matter of fact, this session fits right in with what was the mainstream of roots-jazz at that time. Like Panasonic, it may even have been slightly ahead of its time.

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