Those who can never get enough of Joe McPhee are once again blessed with yet another CD, this time a previously unreleased set from a 1979 Paris studio session of wind duets with André Jaume, originally scheduled but never actually released on Hat Hut Records, but now available thanks to the Corbett Vs. Dempsey label.
The great thrill of this album, aside from the chance to hear something from early in McPhee's career, is the joy and inventiveness of the conversations that these two musicians have, inspired by other players' material. Only two of the nine tracks, "Rue St. Jaume" and "Nuclear" by Jauma and McPhee respectively, are originals. The other seven are pieces by Charles Mingus ("Pithecanthropus Erectus" and "Self-Portrait in Three Colors"), Thelonious Monk ("Blue Monk"), Duke Ellington ("Come Sunday"), Billy Strayhorn ("Chelsea Bridge"), and Ornette Coleman ("Lonely Woman").
McPhee often lets tunes from traditional repertoire take shape in his live sets, but rarely does he play a whole set of such material. What we get, as a result, is another point of view on his musical thinking, and how the melodies and harmonies of familiar tunes can be presented and explored in unexpected ways — a kind of idiomatic paradigm shift in real time.
Jaume on alto tenor and bass clarinet, and McPhee on Alto, tenor and pocket cornet are alive, probing and alert to each other's strains as they spin variations rhythmical and melodic on the tunes, inspired by the compositions' motifs and lyrical content. This is like eavesdropping on a telepathic wave-length dynamic conversation with the added bonus of a time-capsule effect, as one is thrown back to the sounds of December 15, 1979.
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