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Album Review

Joe McPhee / Jamie Saft / Joe Morris / Charles Downs: Ticonderoga


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Joe McPhee / Jamie Saft / Joe Morris / Charles Downs: Ticonderoga
The premise for this get together commenced with discussions by pianist Jamie Saft and bassist, guitarist Joe Morris who plotted to meld their influences from John Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard Again (Impulse, 1966) album, along with celebrated artists, trumpeter, reedman Joe McPhee and drummer Charles Downs. Moreover, the band moniker Ticonderoga is a Mohawk Indian word that translates into "junction of two waterways," signifying the transition from the artists' collective impressions and groupthink of the Coltrane set with an updated modality.

True to form, the musicians establish an open-ended forum on the first track, "Beyond Days." As Saft's temperance and stammering block chords are contrasted by McPhee's blistering sax lines, beefed up by Downs' punchy and sweeping patterns. Here, the artists' lucid imagery, concerning the dual waterways, comes to fruition via the fluid visual intimations. They alter the current but often do so with power and panache.

Joe Morris—performing solely on bass—is the commander with his pliant and dynamically motivated underpinnings, while McPhee's turbulent and buttery notes cast a conglomerate of disparate emotive aspects and dappled hues. On "Leaves of Certain," the band springs forward amid Saft's coy soloing along with a spunky pulse and linear storyline with jagged, free-spirited romps. But the frontline's acutely placed melodies spark an added dimension to the improv quotient.

"A Backward King," is the album closer, brimming with McPhee's soulful parts atop scrambling and searching metrics in addition to asymmetrical cadences and subtle reengineering processes or corpulent overtures. Nonetheless, the quartet's energized and undulating frameworks generate an abundance of persuasively developed propositions, regardless of what may be paralleled to Live at the Village Vanguard Again. Hence, the ensemble formulates a singularized, standalone musical statement.

Track Listing

Beyond Days; Simplicity of Man; Leaves of Certain; A Backward King.


Joe McPhee: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jamie Saft: piano; Joe Morris: bass; Charles Downs: drums.

Album information

Title: Ticonderoga | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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