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Joe McPhee: Journey

Florence Wetzel By

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Trio-X, composed of Joe McPhee on saxophone, Dominic Duval on bass, and Jay Rosen on drums, has made its Journey on CIMP. The label known as CIMP, or Creative Improvised Music Projects, occupies a unique place amongst its peers. Having recorded dozens of avant-garde groups, its vision includes presenting the music as is, recorded live to two tracks with no further editing. Bob Rusch and his family are closely involved in all aspects of CIMP’s recordings, as evidenced by liner notes, which offer an intimate portrait of a jazz recording session.

Rusch is clearly proud to present Trio-X. He mentions the group’s honesty, and it’s an apt description, because Trio-X never gives less than 100%. The group performs as a cooperative, and the three musicians are clearly comfortable with each other. It’s impossible to say too many good things about Joe McPhee; his playing is cerebral, forceful, and intensely passionate. After decades of committed playing, his talent is so strong and so deep it’s unshakable. The same can be said of Duval, whose powerful drive and sensitivity make him one of free jazz’s most popular bassists. Rosen, the youngest member of the group, has an amazing range and an unerring instinct for conjuring up the right sound at the right time.

Of the ten songs on Journey, eight clock in at under ten minutes. In the liner notes Rusch expresses surprise that the songs are, for improvised music, rather short, but this brevity enhances rather than detracts: it allows Trio-X to display the many sides of its talent, and it also makes the CD a good introduction for listeners easing into improvised music. Highlights include “Everything in Nothing Flat,” which features McPhee’s full-out blowing; “Albert’s Alto,” a high-spirited tribute to the great Albert Ayler where McPhee gets Ayler’s tone and spirit just right; and “Amazing Grace,” the last selection on the CD, a moving rendition dedicated to Duval’s late wife.

CIMP’s statement of purpose boldly declares, “CIMP records are not intended to be background music.” And it’s true: although one can listen to Journey with half an ear, its greatest rewards come from attention and complete immersion. Certainly Trio-X is worth the effort. And as powerful as this group is on CD, they are not to be missed live, so be sure to catch them next time they’re in town.


Personnel: Joe McPhee: saxophone; Dominic Duval: bass; Jay Rosen: drums;

Title: Journey | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: CIMP Records


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