Joe McPhee Po Music

Linear B

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Multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee assembled a septet of musicians deployed in various configurations (at most five at a time), playing both totally improvised pieces as well as ones based loosely on themes written by the leader. While McPhee's music can get quite abstract, it's almost always grounded in a blues feel; Albert Ayler is one of his strongest influences. His themes, like that of "Love Life," are often heartbreakingly beautiful, thus grounding even the most wide-ranging improvisations in a rich emotive cushion. The European musicians accompanying McPhee, all veterans of the hat stable, each possess that valuable ability to navigate on either side of the intellectual/emotional divide, and thus make excellent co-travelers. But it's McPhee's own impassioned playing that stands out on both reeds and brass. His revitalization of Wayne Shorter's gorgeous "Footprints" is leagues more imaginative and heartfelt than any done by Shorter's presumed admirers among the so-called Young Lions (Wynton Marsalis and associates). The concluding "Voices," with its Spanish echoes and plaintive melodic line, brings this lovely recording to a close. Linear B covers enough of McPhee's stylistic oeuvre, and is fine enough in and of itself, to make it an excellent introduction to his work. Recommended.

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