Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

10

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

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Ticonderoga was inspired by a conversation between Joe Morris and Jamie Saft regarding their mutual admiration for John Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard Again (Impulse!, 1966). Paying homage to the historic date, the pair invited free jazz veterans Joe McPhee and Charles Downs to convene for an informal recording session at Saft's studio in the Catskill Mountains, located just down the river from Ticonderoga, a Mohawk word meaning "the junction of two waterways."

Lending credence to the album's title, this truly is a multi-generational summit meeting; when told about the project's origin, McPhee informed his collaborators that he was in the front row of the audience at the Village Vanguard the very night the legendary Coltrane set was taped. Downs, formerly known as Rashid Bakr, has manned the skins for Cecil Taylor, Jemeel Moondoc and William Parker, among many other loft jazz-era legends.

Embracing a purely acoustic aesthetic, Morris joins the rhythm section, playing upright bass instead of his usual electric guitar. Although known for his expertise on vintage analog keyboards, Saft turns his attention to the piano, eliciting harp-like flourishes and scintillating glissandos that evoke his love of Alice Coltrane's technique. Even McPhee, a renowned multi-instrumentalist, limits himself to tenor and soprano for this effort. A distinctive stylist, McPhee's burnished tone and oblique phrasing channels the rhapsodic fervor of late-period Coltrane without ever resorting to mere imitation, even when using the same instrumental combination. Downs' subtle timekeeping provides incessant forward momentum, driving the quartet with hypnotic patterns and rollicking polyrhythms.

The record's four long improvisations channel the experimental spirit that defined The New Thing; Saft conjures a kaleidoscopic mosaic of sound by playing directly on the piano's strings in "Beyond Days" and McPhee vocalizes through his soprano on "Leaves of Certain." Underscored by Morris' steadfast bass and Downs' roiling kit work, Saft's luminous asides and McPhee's rapturous testimonials provide ardent lyricism to "Simplicity of Man," while "A Backward King," climaxes at a fevered pitch, as Morris and Downs' nervy pulse spurs thorny interplay between McPhee's bristling tenor and Saft's prismatic cascades.

Using post-war avant-garde innovations as inspiration, this all-star affair exudes a rarefied focus. Expanding upon the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic advances established by Coltrane and his spiritual brethren half a century ago, Ticonderoga is a bracingly vital reminder of the expressive potential of free music.

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

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

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "The Beast" CD/LP/Track Review The Beast
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "Pigs & Fairies" CD/LP/Track Review Pigs & Fairies
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "A Beautiful Story" CD/LP/Track Review A Beautiful Story
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "Chrome" CD/LP/Track Review Chrome
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 11, 2017
Read "Putting Off Death" CD/LP/Track Review Putting Off Death
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Loneliness Road" CD/LP/Track Review Loneliness Road
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!