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Live Reviews

Magic: Joe McPhee with Trio X and Mikolaj Trzaska at Firehouse 12 in New Haven

By Published: November 29, 2008
Trzaska and McPhee shadowed each other, Trzaska manifesting a sense of his instrument and a melodic acuity not unlike McPhee's. When he brought out his bass clarinet, McPhee played soprano, the low and high modalities of the two horns complementing each other. When McPhee played his alto clarinet, low and midrange tones supported one another. It was not until the second set that Trzaska relinquished all timidity and the two reedists let fly, unfailingly bringing out the best in one another. Their tonalities continuously matched up: even when they exchanged parts or played in sequence, collided or moved in parallel, harmonized or synchronized. The journey progressed courageously, ultimately reaching the border of a large, symphonic musical space marked by complete unity and singular tonal purity.

McPhee is always McPhee, so strong, so humble, so loving, so egalitarian, and totally in control of whatever instrument he chooses to play (the pocket trumpet, in addition to reeds). While playing soprano in the first set, he took a small lead at one point. His improvisation was swinging, circular yet progressive, singing a coherent tune. His sound was packed with both musical and emotional content, and his versatility and elegance augmented the transmission of nothing but joy. He caressed the music like a lover; he painted it with the expressionistic and romantic gestures of an artist.

And though he appeared in the guise of a musician, McPhee was the magician. There certainly was no denying that he had pulled a couple of rabbits out of his hat by putting his Trio and Trzaska together. An alchemy more than justifying the leader's designation of the group's name: "Magic." In fact, the trick proved nothing less than a fairy-tale come true.

Photo credit

Lyn Horton

Vist Joe McPhee on the web.

Visit Trio X on the web.

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