Joe McPhee

Inside Out

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Of all the Joe McPhee duet recordings, this one is by far the most visionary, moving, and inspired musically and spiritually. With the exception of the three-part "Haiku" suite that opens the album and the violin solo by Prentice on "It Sings," the rest of the album was recorded outside, on the grounds of the Spirit Room rather than in it. Recorded in under 24 hours, there is sense about these pieces that the nature of freely improvised music is a process of unfolding oneself -- making oneself available not only to the spirit of the music, but also completely open to the other. "Haiku," with its three short movements, is exactly that kind of ceremonial ground, where two musicians open slowly and turn around to face into each other. "It Sings" is exactly that, a solo violin song, with Prentice skittering its notes and choruses inside and outside his chosen harmonic field. Since the field is now open (literally and figuratively), McPhee and Prentice perform "The Garden" quite literally in it. The sounds of the birds overhead make this abundantly clear. Dedicated to Cecil Taylor, it is a slow piece that wedges open the microtonal gate and allows it to flood the players with ideas and counter ideas, as they track a path through a harmonic field of pitches and tones and timbrally educate one another. There is a two-part suite entitled "Conference With the Birds" for Dave Holland, who figuratively enters the proceedings, earnestly though not obtrusively. There are no seams as in Holland's music, but there are improvised and arbitrary intervals along a rather curved line of inquiry. The last two pieces on the disc, "Dusk" and "Drops," are both longer, but they balance the sum total of the suites pretty much in duration, adding yet another element of rounded scale to these proceedings. The latter is the most beautiful thing here as McPhee, using his soprano and clarinet, engages Prentice in a language of Eastern modalism replete with drones and textured accents on the major figures. And the birds do sing.

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