Joe McPhee: The Sugar Hill Suite & Rules of Engagement, Vol. 2

Kurt Gottschalk By

Sign in to view read count
Trio-X is one of the longest-standing and strongest vehicles for one of the best free-thinking saxophonists around today. Joe McPhee has countless associations, but consistently is at his most relaxed and exploratory with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. With only five releases in the decade they've played together, the group has afforded itself the time to grow and find a common sound.

The Sugar Hill Suite

There's plenty of payoff in The Sugar Hill Suite, an oddly plaintive dedication to the spirit of Harlem. Far from the jazz-renaissance throwback that might be expected, it is luxuriously languid. At times, the pace picks up slightly as on Duke Ellington's "Drop Me Off in Harlem and McPhee's "Monk's Waltz , but more often the picture they paint of the historic New York neighborhood lands between contentment and sorrow. It's as hard to miss the point of the inclusion of the standard "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child as with the traditional "Goin' Home . The album isn't specifically Harlem on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning, but resonates with years of both pride and hardship.

Rules of Engagement, Vol. 2

Duval invited McPhee to join him for his second Rules of Engagement meeting, after releasing a duet with Mark Whitecage as Volume 1 last year. Even outside of Trio-X, Duval has often been McPhee's bassist of choice and 1999's duo set The Dream Book remains one of the best in each of their discographies. As on Sugar Hill, there's nothing hurried about the session. They play so sweetly that a brief "Amazing Grace is an apex without cliché. Despite his long association with McPhee and a tenure with Cecil Taylor, his work as a leader has been rare (the C.T. String Quartet being a notable exception). The Rules of Engagement series might afford him the chance to step into that role.

The Sugar Hill Suite

Tracks: For Agusta Savage, Triple Play (For Jillian, Grace, & Dominic), Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Drop Me Off in Harlem, The Sugar Hill Suite (For Samuel Rosen), Little Sunflower, Monk's Waltz, Goin' Home


Joe McPhee (tenor sax), Dominic Duval (bass), Jay Rosen (drums)

Rules of Engagement, Vol. 2


Joe McPhee Monologue, Amazing Grace, While My Lady Sleeps, Coming Forth


Dominic Duval (bass), Joe McPhee (trumpet, soprano sax)


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Two Sackville Gems: Abdullah Ibraihim's "Ancient Africa" and Oliver Lake and Joseph Bowie's "Live at A Space 1976" Multiple Reviews Two Sackville Gems: Abdullah Ibraihim's "Ancient...
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: June 2, 2017
Read Margrete Grarup: Denmark's jazz secret is out Multiple Reviews Margrete Grarup: Denmark's jazz secret is out
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 28, 2017
Read Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space Multiple Reviews Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Cassette Plus Download Labels Multiple Reviews Cassette Plus Download Labels
by John Eyles
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago" Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Jeremy Monteiro & Eugene Pao: To Paris With Love,  A Tribute to the Genius of Michel Legrand / Jeremy Monteiro & Jazz Brazileiro: Brazilian Dreams" Multiple Reviews Jeremy Monteiro & Eugene Pao: To Paris With Love, A...
by Ian Patterson
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "Jan Lundgren: Swedish Ballads... & More...  Quietly There" Multiple Reviews Jan Lundgren: Swedish Ballads... & More... Quietly...
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "Allison Miller & Honey Ear Trio: Lean; Swivel" Multiple Reviews Allison Miller & Honey Ear Trio: Lean; Swivel
by Doug Collette
Published: November 4, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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