Harold E. Smith / Mike Kull / Joe McPhee


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This trio date from 1971 follows Nation Time chronologically. Trinity, originally on the CJR label, is a powerful dose of outer space jazz, blues, and avant-soul from a master of virtually any instrument with a bell. It was recorded in the parish hall of a Catholic church. There are only three tracks on the album, the first of which is the spatially expansive "Ionization." McPhee first picks up a trumpet and then immediately goes to his tenor, accompanied only by drummer Harold E. Smith. While at first this sounds like a duet in the manner of Coltrane's Interstellar Space with Rashied Ali, it quickly moves into a sonic researching of the parameters of that space. Smith moves through polyrhythms at blinding speed, while McPhee tries recontextualizing them without overcompensating. Finally, Mike Kull enters pianissimo, throwing the energy into a tailspin of dynamic response. As Kull's piano becomes a counterrhythm, McPhee drops out for a bit to let them stretch. And the weave is tight, yet free and clear. When he finally does re-enter, it's at full speed before bringing his trademark slow, deep-soul lyricism into the improvising with both tenor and pocket cornet. "Astral Spirits" has Kull playing an electric piano, which in 1971 was still an instrument with unexplored textural and sonic palettes. McPhee's tenor playing here is reminiscent of Jerry Butler if he were an "out" soul singer. His playing is rooted in groove and nuance. As if this weren't enough, there is the expressionist work "Delta," with Kull getting into an avant-funk. McPhee goes modal, playing deep blues and Memphis soul without regard for bars and measures. On Trinity, the listener travels the history of sound through time and space. All that's left to do is nod silently in affirmation or weep and gnash your teeth in defeat. Revelatory. Glorious.

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