Expanding from the declaration of it's title the first duo recording by the redoubtable Joe McPhee and the pan-percussionary citizen Hamid Drake is music steeped in an emancipatory feel. Here are two men in a celebratory mood communing with and expounding on the African American traditions still reflective of larger global histories. Adding to the artistic imperative of the music is the photo that adorns the disc's tray card of Drake and McPhee in colorful print shirts and shades, the latter wearing a baseball cap with the appropriate mantra "Attitude Is Everything." Taped at Chicago's Empty Bottle where monumental meetings of this caliber almost seem customary it's a union that many followers of creative improvised music have been dreaming about for some time.
The only downside (and it's a truly minor one) is actually reflective of one of the players' most evident strengths- the dynamic range they elicit from their instruments coupled with the way in which they are recorded. During the opening of "Cries and Whispers" Drake takes an extended prefatory solo with palms and fingers that is at times difficult to hear at regular volume settings. Similarly McPhee's breath sounds endemic to his creations later in the piece fall only slightly above the recorded range. As mentioned these flaws are of minor importance considering the depth of music on hand and are easily correctable with a quick turn of the dial.
From the initial drum invocation of the first piece through the mournful vocalized lament of "Hate Crime Cries" a palpable spiritualism saturates the music. McPhee and Drake work out of a wonderful rapport in tandem. Each man is free to move in any direction, but evidencing a shared discipline the music always follows a tractable course. Drake's rhythms are a constantly mutable fount of energy steering from oblique patterns directly into organically infused grooves as on his hoary syncopated solo during the title track. McPhee's horns are equally limber and responsive to the spontaneous shifts in orientation painting a dappled panorama of split tones. Or just as fluidly blowing a gusty Sub-Saharan sirocco from deep within the bell of his trumpet as on "Mother Africa." Drake's hand drumming on this piece suffers some in the transfer to disc, but once he turns to his kit the troubles cease. "God Bless the Child" is given a reading right up there with virtually any of Dolphy's, so tender the clink of glassware can be heard in the background. On "Emancipation Proclamation" the pair trades tender for militant as Drake's martial traps and McPhee's circular blown tenor rise in unified assertion of inalienable musical (read: human) rights.
McPhee and Drake have published their first chapter together, but theirs is a book certain to contain further adventures. Hopefully the tape machines will be on hand to inscribe these future entries and continue the travelogue recounting the improvisatory aspects of the African cultural Diaspora that has been initiated here.Okkadisk on the web: http://www.okkadisk.com
Track Listing: Cries and Whispers; Mother Africa (for Miriam Makeba); God Bless the Child; Emancipation Proclamation; Hate Crime Cries.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.