In the Spirit

Joe McPhee

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In the Spirit Review

by Steve Loewy

The title says it all: five spirituals played by a group led by the extraordinary Joe McPhee (on soprano and tenor saxophones). Joined by two outstanding bassists -- Michael Bisio and Dominic Duval -- and fellow reed player Joe Giardullo (on flute, bass clarinet, and soprano sax), this unusual quartet winds their way through "God Bless the Child," "Deep River," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," and McPhee's own "Astral Spirits." Tempos tend to be snail-like, but the depth, originality, and unusual instrumentation make this eminently accessible recording a winner all the way. An important contribution to the discography of the spiritual, McPhee gives it a new perspective, but one that is entirely respectful of the tradition. Performed gracefully and tastefully, the group tastes free form without losing sight of the melodies.

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