Trumpeter Joe McPhee shows up for this live loft session recorded with flutist Jerome Bourdellon in 2000. The multi-instrumentalist manages to make a multi-instrument out of the pocket trumpet through extended techniques and unbounded imagination. Bourdellon matches McPhee's sonic searchfulness, artfully coaxing new flute nuances and sub sounds before articulating sweeping runs with unguessable destinations.
On the opener, "Business Hour," Bourdellon inflates the bass flute slowly, then hits the keys hard enough to produce percussion and melody, with McPhee smearing and embouchering lazily. Bourdellon's key percussion blends with McPhee's tiny pops on "Pearls to Swine." They vocalize very differently through their instruments and play tag through melodies, then McPhee goes operatic. They end in a striking improvisation. In some ways the most melodic and virtuosic track, "White Street, 17th" creates a strong sense of spontaneous structure as the players seduce the sound out of their instruments.
"A.K.A.L.H." might stand for unusual usage of instruments, as the two ply singular sonances (a sax mouthpiece in a muted trumpet?) for a near-avian soundscape. Bourdellon's attack yields muscular flute tone. A sublime bass flute/muted trumpet ballad, "In the Noiseless Loft," tells you all you need to know about how beautiful improvised music can be.
McPhee indulges in some spirited scat singing for "Come Back Ella," then mutes the trumpet. All the while, Bourdellon keeps the bass flute richly roaming the scale. "Mystery J" sneaks in on exhalations, then skulks on the edges of intonation with multiphonic fans. McPhee gets the rhythm right muted on "Manhattan Tango." Bourdellon boleros on piccolo, triple tonguing, sweeping, and exploring sound potentials.
Adding to McPhee's impressive catalogue, Manhattan Tango captures the intimacy of two friends playing in two friends' living room, materializing fire.
Personnel: Joe McPhee, pocket trumpet & voice; Jerome Bourdellon, bass, C, and piccolo flute.