Joe McPhee's double solo album Graphics was a major step in his discography, showcasing his enormous ability and range on several instruments as well as laying out the vast structural territories with which he would concern himself in upcoming years. The opening soprano sax track, "Graphics 3/4," and the short "Daisy Bones" show his clear indebtedness to Steve Lacy, all angles, edges, and skewed melodies, while his homage to Sidney Bechet revels in the blues and New Orleans. On this last piece, by intrepidly taking it into the further reaches of his horn, McPhee makes clear the lineage between the earliest forms of jazz and the avant-garde. Other pieces, like "Legendary Heroes," demonstrate his abiding interest in more abstract terrain, moving from percussion to two trumpets played simultaneously to anguished cries on tenor, all coalescing into an unusual but satisfying whole. Though still hugely under-recognized at the time of this live performance, it's clear that his musical conception was entering full formation, and one can hear him laying the groundwork for much of his future oeuvre. Unavailable on disc as of 2001, Graphics is a rare gem but a necessary one for the McPhee fan, and is well worth the trouble of seeking out both for its inherent beauty and as a key work in the career of one of the strongest players in the jazz avant-garde of the late 20th century.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick