119

Joe McPhee's Bluette: In the Spirit

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
Joe McPhee's Bluette: In the Spirit Jazz and Blues are recognized widely as uniquely American art forms. At the root of both genres resides the African American spiritual song-form. Spirituals predate both Blues and Jazz and continue to be a life-sustaining force for both musical traditions. McPhee and his partners in Bluette fathom the primacy of this bloodline and use this date as a celebratory tribute to these sources. In addition to the handful of spirituals in the program the quartet also touches upon the work of other composers whose work has been shaped by these religious founts of inspiration. Their reading of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” a song that served and still serves as an anthem for social and political equality is tear-inducing in its noble beauty. The delicate creativity brought to bear on the composition takes the kernels of thought inherent in the piece and expands them exponentially. Giardullo’s silvery flute and McPhee’s canorous soprano weave a eulogy for fallen heroes, while still stretching a hopeful gaze to the future under the undulating bass currents of Bisio and Duval. Hearing this piece makes me hope that Mayfield was mailed a copy and had a chance to hear it before his passing.

Ellington’s “Come Sunday” is paired with McPhee’s own “Birmingham Sunday” in a similar salute. The piece opens in a dirge-like dance between soprano and bass clarinet. When the twining basses eventually enter the horn lines become increasingly dense rising and falling underneath a downpour of pizzicato notes. Somber tones saturate later sections before a final ecstatic reconciliation of the themes. Of the spirituals the opening rendition of “Deep River” is the most openly imbued with solemn pathos, though all tug strongly at the emotions. On this piece and on “God Bless the Child” McPhee is at his most nakedly lyric and his euphonic lines uncover every ounce of dignity in the timeworn, but no less lustrous melodies. This is, simply put, some of the most straightforward playing he’s ever put to record.

McPhee’s own “Astral Spirits” references the reedplayer on his regular terrain of intricately bent tones, multiphonics and lighting fast fingerings sans Giardullo. The barrage from the bell of his horn becomes so intense that the bassists are moved to follow suit with staccato string slaps. Bass accents also wreathe the opening on “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” where a swell of bowed dissonance prefaces the later interplay by the horns. McPhee on tenor and Giardullo on fluttering bass clarinet arrive in a deservedly righteous procession of bluesy phrasings and take the piece and the disc regrettable close. In a career stamped by a continuous string of transcendent recordings this is one of McPhee’s best to date, a vital testament that lovingly embraces the indelible tradition of spirituals and expertly applies them to the setting of creative improvisation.

Tracks:Deep River/ People Get Ready/ God Bless the Child/ Birmingham Sunday/ Come Sunday/ Astral Spirits/ Just A Closer Walk With Thee.


Personnel: Joe McPhee- soprano & tenor saxophones; Joe Giardullo- flute, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone; Michael Bisio- bass; Dominic Duval- bass.

Recorded: March 17 & 18, 1999.

Title: In the Spirit | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: CIMP Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Open Book CD/LP/Track Review Open Book
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Stolen Moments CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Sonder CD/LP/Track Review Sonder
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Putting Off Death CD/LP/Track Review Putting Off Death
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Inland Sea" CD/LP/Track Review Inland Sea
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 16, 2017
Read "Do Not Disturb" CD/LP/Track Review Do Not Disturb
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 26, 2016
Read "Cave Art" CD/LP/Track Review Cave Art
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: August 20, 2016
Read "Billionaire Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Billionaire Blues
by Mark Werlin
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Chapter Five" CD/LP/Track Review Chapter Five
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 28, 2017
Read "Slight Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Slight Freedom
by Dave Wayne
Published: December 10, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.