The Thing with Joe McPhee: She Knows...

Mark Corroto By

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The Thing with Joe McPhee: She Knows...
After nearly three dozen releases over seventeen years, it was announced in 2019 that the trio The Thing would be on a hiatus from touring and recording. This garage punk jazz trio has carried the flame of Black Flag's get-in-the-van philosophy, traveling and recording with the likes of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Otomo Yoshihide, Neneh Cherry, Barry Guy, Ken Vandermark, and the Norwegian rockers Cato Salsa Experience. This release is a reissue of the band's second recording which followed their eponymous debut on Crazy Wisdom records. Both discs, recorded in 2000-1, are long-out-of-print collector's items. Both were then reissued in a 3 CD/DVD box set Now And Forever (Smalltown Superjazz, 2007), also a very difficult find for collectors. That is certainly enough reason for ezz-thetics chief Werner X. Uehlinger to reissue The Thing's music. Beyond that, She Knows... includes jazz legend Joe McPhee, a musician Uehlinger championed, with his earliest Hat Hut Records releases beginning in 1975. McPhee's recording Tenor (Hat Hut, 1977) was certainly an inspiration to nearly every modern creative musician, including the members of The Thing.

This all-Scandinavian trio, The Thing, is a band born of the music of Don Cherry. Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson is joined by drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten. The Thing's first self-titled recording, on Gustafsson's Crazy Wisdom label, featured either Don Cherry's music or dedications to the multi-cultured pocket trumpeter. The trio's second outing extends the logic and music of Don Cherry and adds Joe McPhee playing pocket trumpet and tenor saxophone. She Knows... covers only one Cherry tune, "The Thing," but follows the same path with covers of Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer, Frank Lowe, and Joe McPhee. The album opens, interestingly enough, with the rocker PJ Harvey's "To Bring You My Love." If American pianist Ethan Iverson's trio can reconstruct the Swedish band ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You," the Swede's can surely make alternative rock their territory. Gustafsson and McPhee recast the Harvey tune in the same mode as this entire Cherry-inspired outing. McPhee, as he has shown throughout his career, is an excellent stand-in on pocket trumpet. Together, the pair hover over the territory established by the band Old and New Dreams. That is, they start at Cherry and Ornette, fast-forward to Cherry and Dewey Redman, then take the music into this 21st century open horizon. The sound of Albert Ayler propels the traditional "Going Home" and the Ulmer track "Baby Talk" with a wah-wah bass-line. We are also treated to a joyous saxophone-duet opening to the Frank Lowe tune "For Real," where the possibilities of each musician's horn are realized in passivity before they open up into a shouting match refereed by the energized drumming of Nilssen-Love. A listen to this reissued recording these many years later confirms this supergroup as living legends. Now, when will that hiatus end?

Track Listing

To Bring You My Love; The Thing; Baby Talk; Kathelin Gray; Going Home; For Real; Old Eyes.


Mats Gustafsson: woodwinds; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: bass; Joe McPhee: woodwinds.

Album information

Title: She Knows... | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: ezz-thetics

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