Raphe Malik


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Measured by raw talent, it does not get much better than this -- which is one reason why this set of what appears to be mostly improvised tracks is somewhat of a letdown, but only in the sense of missed opportunities. To be sure, the combination of two horns and drums is limiting by nature; and there is a missing depth to the recording as a result. That said, there is much to savor here, and the rich tone of both Raphe Malik and Joe McPhee is fully captured by the pristine studio sound for which Boxholder Records is known. Some of the best work comes when one of the horns drops out, leaving the other horn and drums, and it is pure heaven when Joe McPhee and Raphe Malik spar on trumpets, such as on the challenging "Velocity." "Resolving a Quote" showcases the magnificent rough-hewn timbre of Malik, whose debt to Don Cherry is self-evident; but the track also further evidences Joe McPhee's versatility on soprano sax and pocket trumpet. Along with the talented Donald Robinson, whose dual roles as rhythm section and soloist are performed with deliberate precision, each player is an individualist who is somewhat unconventional, though largely identifiable styles and techniques lend an air of daring chance-taking. This is no better pronounced than on "Space March," where the horns enter and close with pinched streams of air, sandwiched between the myriad mutations of the core unit, adding muted trumpet here, changing resonances there, and altering instruments. One function of such a small group of free improvisers is to sanction long solos, allowing an opportunity to hear the artists stretch much more than in a more conventional setting. Although this album may not be the best introduction to the horn players, as both Malik and McPhee have recorded in larger, broader settings offering greater challenges, it fits a niche for dedicated connoisseurs of free improvisation, with expansive opportunities for lengthy improvisations.

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