Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joe McPhee Plays Monk

Multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee is without a doubt one of the more important musical figures on the free and improvised music scenes in the United States and in Europe. Born November 3, 1939 in Miami Florida, McPhee is equally at home exploring the ins and outs of the soprano as he is playing in the solo saxophone format. As a matter of fact he has released seven solo saxophone recordings dating back to 1977.

 I had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago in Paris, France. We were both working with our trios at the Sunside/Sunset Jazz Club, located in the Les Halles section of Paris. I was working the upstairs room (the Sunside) with bassist Daryl Hall and drummer Donald Kontomanou, while Joe was performing in the downstairs room (the Sunset) with his group Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen.  The set times for the different rooms did not overlap, so we were not able to hear each other’s set. But I was honored to be sharing the same sonic space with him that evening.

I was drawn to this particular clip of Joe playing Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” because it reminded of my solo saxophone CD, Monk Abstractions, on which I also took it upon myself to deconstruct several of Monk's pieces via solo soprano. As documented by Lacy in his voluminous body of work, Monk’s melodies tend to lay nicely on the soprano, falling in a very resonant part of the instrument.

I like the elastic approach with which Joe plays the melody. His rendition reminds me a little of Lacy in that he, too, often veered off into a freer harmonic-scape after the main theme,  recapping with the melody at the very end.  This approach is very effective, because the music always sounds fresh. If one played over the tune's chord changes during the solos it would start to sound predictable. Besides, Monk's melodies are so well-crafted and witty they often inspire lots of ideas on their own.

This performance occurred January 16, 2011 at the Henie-Onstad Art Centre in Oslo, Norway as a part of the annual All Ears Festival, a non-profit festival organized by musicians Guro Moe, Paal Nilssen-Love, Jon Rune Strøm and Lasse Marhaug. This festival, in addition to improvised music, features cutting-edge artists working in the video and dance mediums.

To find out about more of Joe McPhee's music and performances, visit HERE

1 comment:

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