The articulate and prolific American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee is joined by Norwegian bass heavyweight Ingebright Haker Flaten in a tandem tribute to the Borough of Brooklyn in this recent release from Lisbon's Clean Feed label. The duo, evenly matched for their common characteristics of brawny sound and ecstatic sense of musical phrase, here get to exchanges ideas about such thematic starting points as Sonny Rollins "The Bridge," long-time Brooklyn resident Dewey Redman and the Brooklyn motto "Enoragt Maect Haght," a Dutch phrase meaning "Unity Makes Strength."
Strength is definitely a trait that jumps out from this session. It stems, right at the first listen, from McPhee's sense of form, his consistent ability to develop motivic ideas with fertile melodic thinking in a free improv setting that results in coherent and formal, albeit spontaneously composed, pieces. The Calypso-like tune that emerges on "Crossing the Bridge" recalls Rollins' inspired rhythmic flights, but is also reminiscent of McPhee's long-time influence, Albert Ayer, for its concise yet powerful nature.
Fans of McPhee's trumpet playing will be spoiled here, as the mostly saxophone-centric player lets loose on the pocket version of this instrument on "Putnam Central," laying down his inimitable fluid style of brass, against a sympathetic bubbling bass counter line, and in "Enoragt Maect Haght" McPhee moans a lyrical dirge on the horn, replete with airy passages and an exchange of timbres and textural explorations with Haker Flaten of an imaginative and intriguing kind.
A stalwart of the free jazz scene since the 1970s, McPhee is blessed with a bottomless wellspring of ideas and gets them across with chops that only seem to get better with age. And here, there is the added bonus in Ingebright Haker Flaten of a more than suitable partner/foil who has the brawn and the brains to match the older master.
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