Volcanic Tongue Catalogue

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
Undergroud Railroad

Bo'Weavil Recordings Weavil-51


Edition of 500 copies reissue of this free jazz masterpiece from 1969: McPhee is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who has forged his own circuitous route through the jazz underground since his blazing debut on Clifford Thornton’s Freedom & Unity back in 1967.  In recent years his profile has been higher than ever thanks to fruitful associations with younger players like Chris Corsano, Hamid Drake and Mats Gustafsson as well as with Peter Brotzmann but most of his early recordings, released on his own CjR imprint, have long been unavailable.  Underground Railroad was the first release under his own name and it’s a primitive whirlwind of a session, with drummer Ernest Bostic sounding like a fleet of steam rollers behind McPhee’s catastrophically powerful horn.  This is a cataclysmic recording, one that lurches between primitive field holler force, walls of tribal percussion and hurricanes of weeping brass. CjR was also one of the earliest artists-run private press free jazz imprints and the restoration of alla its earliest releases is a major public service. Highly recommended.