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This magnificent session is perhaps most unusual for McPhee’s decision to stick to only one the reeds in his bulging bag of instruments throughout its entire duration. Though he limits solely to soprano his creative muse isn’t compromised in the least thanks both to his own inventive genius and that of his able associates. “Points” is a little jumbled and sounds like the players are getting their bearings for the anatomical suite to follow on which Rosen sits out as an observer. According to Rusch’s liner notes he literally placed a watermelon in front of the two remaining improvisers and they used the ripe, rotund fruit as spontaneous impetus to craft a musical homage. Lilting soprano and gleaming arco bass dance a lithesome jig on the opening “Whole.” “Rind” is more tremulous as McPhee’s high-pitched harmonics float gracefully above Duval’s vigorous plucking. The bassist raises two bows on “Meat” playing an agile pair of lines simultaneously on his strings. Once again McPhee’s beauteous phrases blend sweetly with the lower frequencies of Duval’s lacquered lines. The appropriately named “Seeds” sticks in the ears like particles in the teeth before a sudden close signals the end of the Suite.
Full trio returns on the two-part “Wecotdo” and Rosen sounds anxious to make up for his earlier absence showering the tune with both quiet and garrulous percussion. McPhee explores the lower ranges of his instrument on this one at times even dipping playfully into alto range. Duval plugs in on aptly titled “Soundboard Safari” a facetious expedition with Rosen that is fecund in its exploration of unexpected sounds. “Solero” changes the mood completely. A poignant ode to Glen Spearman’s untimely departure from this world, this moving piece showcases McPhee at his most lyrical. Rosen and Duval keep a loose, but lingering pulse throughout. “Putter Piece” is the longest track and gives the most complete snapshot of the trio’s creative process in a continuous conversation of ideas. At the beginning the musicians start with rough-edged component parts and by the tune’s close they have devised a complimentary architecture and a consensus of focus. The disc is approachable as an organic whole and as individual parts though perhaps the former approach is ultimately more satisfying. As engineer Marc Rusch notes in his contributions to the liners, digesting the tunes in separate sittings can disturb the continuity the entire session as work in progress. The disc’s total duration is necessary for the music ripen much like the cloying fruit which is its namesake.
Track Listing: Points, The Watermelon Suite: part 1- The Whole, part 2- The Rind, part 3- The Meat, Part 4- The Seeds, Wecotdo parts 1 & 2, Soundboard Safari, Solero, A Ballad in Their Own Way, Putter Piece, My Funny Valentine.
Recorded at the Spirit Room, Rossie, New York, May 26 & 27, 1998.
Available through Cadence/NorthCountry Distributors (www.cadencebuilding.com)
Personnel: Joe McPhee- soprano saxophone, Dominic Duval- double bass, Hutchins bass, Jay Rosen- drums, percussion.