Rules of Engagement Vol. 2 is the first recording by this duo in roughly five years. Though they often play together, it is still a rare treat to get a collaborative disc out of them. Dominic Duval makes a great choice for his second volume in the Rules of Engagement series by choosing a familiar player who can work within his style.
The record lacks the punch of Rules of Engagement Vol. 1, which featured Mark Whitecage; still, McPhee proves himself again as one of the best, though often overlooked, free players. Duval slaps some chops that makes one think of William Parker, while McPhee adopts the approach of Albert Ayler and latter-day Coltrane that have served him well in the past. The disc just lacks a cohesive depth that these players are known for, which is really a pity considering their reputation and potential.
The central focus of the CD is a four-song cycle. The tracks base themselves on the atrocious Birmingham church bombing that took the lives of four young girls in September of 1963. It begins with "Sunday Improvisations 1, then proceeds with "Sunday Coda and onto the opus "Birmingham Sunday. Between the latter piece and the last part of this cycle, "Sunday Improvisations 2, McPhee explains his chosen runs for the tracks. After this tribute, they launch into a rousing rendition of "Amazing Grace.
Though this is not the highlight of either player's career, it is a solid show. Hopefully there will soon be more volumes released by Duval, as well as another set by this duo.
Track Listing: Nexus; Sunday Improvisations 1; Sunday Coda; Birmingham Sunday; Monologue; Sunday
Improvisations 2; Amazing Grace; While My Lady Sleeps; Coming Forth; Solo Sax; Solo
Personnel: Dominic Duval: bass; Joe McPhee: soprano saxophone.