Volcanic Tongue Catalogue

Joe McPhee & Paal Nilssen-Love
Tomorrow Came Today

Smalltown Superjazz STSJ-148


Fantastic duo CD from original fire music saxophonist Joe McPhee and tireless European drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. Recorded in the studio in 2007, McPhee plays tenor sax and pocket trumpet while Nilssen-Love plays drums. McPhee is on staggering form, blowing beautiful Coltrane/Wright-inflected rundowns, sighing through melancholy blues dirges and tearing it up with a ferocious, muscular style. A fantastic release.

Trio X
Live In Vilnius

NoBusiness Records NBLP-2/3


Alongside David S Ware’s quartet and Charles Gayle’s Parker/Ali trio, Joe McPhee’s Trio X are one of the great contemporary small groups in free jazz. This beautifully presented set – with both discs cut to play at 45rpm for maximum fidelity – documents McPhee, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen at an intuitive peak, recorded live in Vilnius in 2006. The set is divided between originals, inspired re-settings (“My Funny Valentine” into Edwin Star’s “War”) and readings of material by Ornette Coleman (an exquisite “Lonely Woman”, “Law Years”), Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and Dvorak (a starkly beautiful reading of the first movement from Symphony #9 that connects Ayler-ised jazz to European folk/orchestral traditions). McPhee’s playing is gorgeous, with bold, fluid lines bisecting Duval’s uncanny, vocalized bass work and Rosen’s precise feel for time and space. This is a great free jazz record, one with a huge umbilical to the post-Coltrane tradition but with two fists pointing towards the future. Another excellent release from this new label. Highly recommended.

Joe McPhee & Michael Zerang
Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Suite)

NoBusiness Records NBCD-32


Stellar live recording from one of the greatest living free jazz saxophonists, Joe McPhee, and percussionist Michael Zerang. The range of McPhee’s thought at this point is fairly staggering, exposing himself to playing situations that range from the Chicago underground through Chris Corsano, Peter Brotzmann’s big band and LAFMS fugitives Smegma. But then McPhee has always been a radical thinker, incorporating tapes and electronics early on as part of his Survival Unit. Indeed, I would say that he has never sounded better, bucking the trend for fire musicians to tame the flames as they age and pushing himself headlong into new situations that keep his thinking and playing sharp. Which brings us to this gorgeous new LP from a label that has established itself as one of the premier free jazz imprints, Lithuania’s NoBusiness Records. Recorded live in New Orleans, with titles and themes that reference the city, McPhee’s playing here is so lucid, so beautifully ‘out’, that at points it feels like a compendium of alla the aspects of the saxophonist’s personality that have illuminated his back catalogue reduced to the space of a single set. Zerang gives him plenty of room to spread out, whether playing spare rhythmic tattoos beneath his beautiful pocket trumpet work or chasing the trails of his obsessively raging saxophone. It’s a fucking doozer, is what I’m trying to say. Highly recommended.

Joe McPhee & Chris Corsano
Scraps And Shadows

Roaratorio Roar-26


Second duo album on Roaratorio from this inspired hook-up between veteran free jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee and drummer Chris Corsano: this is a major kick out the jams bomb, with a buncha titles dedicated to fellow heavy-hitters like Paul Flaherty, Kidd Jordan, Han Bennink, Muhammad Ali and Fred Anderson. McPhee moves between pocket trumpet, tenor and soprano saxophone throughout. The trumpet blats are particularly effective, pushing Corsano into a weird martial Don Ayler/Don Cherry vibe that he responds to by marching the whole damn deal to the edge of the precipice. But it’s McPhee’s tenor that really grounds the music, playing with a breadth of tone and the kind of interstellar logic of the late-Coltrane ensembles while making lightning strikes on the saxophone’s most phantom registers. A great, great side, one that could have sat as comfortably on Centre Of The World or ESP Disk back in the day while playing with the kinda fiery no-prisoners assault that is truly post-Noise. Comes with a download, highly recommended. 

Steve Lacy & Joe McPhee
The Rest

Roaratorio Roar-28

one-sided LP

Previously unreleased 1977 concert recorded in Basel, Switzerland featuring these two soprano saxophone titans: taking its title from jazz critic Steve Loewy’s comment about the first solo Lacy half of the concert that originally came out on Hat Hut (the classic Lacy album Clinkers: “where is the other half?”, he asked), The Rest comes from a tape held by McPhee but never previously made available. Recorded early in McPhee’s career as the result of a spontaneous invitation from Lacy to join him ion stage for the second half of the concert, this is an absolute tour-de-force, with Lacy on stunning form, charging through ideas with a pin-point focus and a beautiful, romantic swooning tone that is unmistakable. McPhee’s soprano playing is a great counterpoint, chasing endlessly-repeating loops of fluid tone one minute, adding strange declamatory asides to Lacy’s sudden gasps of ballad form the next. Plus there are sections when the two get really out, sounding like some kind of post-Nonaah/AACM investigation into space rock. A major addition to the shelves of both players, with liners from McPhee and a free download. Recommended!