Joe McPhee

Sweet Freedom, Now What?

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In 1994, Joe McPhee entered a studio in Zurich, Switzerland and recorded this thoughtful yet chance-taking response to Max Roach's ambitious Freedom Now Suite of 1960. McPhee, who is joined by Lisle Ellis on double bass and Paul Plimley on acoustic piano, could have easily turned Sweet Freedom, Now What? into yet another predictable, cliché-ridden jazz tribute album, but that doesn't happen. McPhee (who is a talented trumpeter but sticks to the tenor sax, soprano sax, and alto clarinet this time) doesn't treat Roach's compositions like museum pieces; instead, he embraces them on his own terms and brings many of his own ideas to the table. In fact, only about half of the songs were actually written or co-written by Roach; original compositions by McPhee, Ellis, and Plimley play a major role in the CD's creative success. Some listeners might be surprised to hear "Garvey's Ghost," "Driva' Man," "Self Portrait," and other Roach pieces played without drums -- after all, Roach was among the most famous drummers to come out of the bebop revolution of the 1940s. But then, the element of surprise is exactly what McPhee is going for on this rewarding, AACM-influenced inside/outside date.

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