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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Steve Lacy & Joe McPhee: The Rest (Roaratorio, 2013) ****

By Martin Schray

There are a lot of duos I would love to hear but unfortunately the musicians have never recorded or performed together (and some never will) - Ornette Coleman and Peter Brötzmann, Bill Dixon and Nate Wooley, Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten and William Parker, Okkyung Lee and Fred Lonberg-Holm, or Martin Küchen and John Zorn come to my mind spontaneously (feel free to add some more). Steve Lacy and Joe McPhee was another of these matches made in heaven I have always wanted to hear and luckily Roaratorio has released the only performance of these two master saxophonists - a really unique moment in free jazz history.

In June 1977 Lacy and McPhee shared a double bill in Basel, Switzerland and Lacy invited McPhee to join him on soprano saxophone for a duet to close his set. Lacy’s performance was issued on the marvelous Clinkers LP and now - 36 years later –  here comes The Rest.

The performance starts with a tossing of short licks and both of them seem to feel very comfortable with each other immediately. Mc Phee’s raw sounds and guttural tones meet Lacy’s delicate and elegant lines, and while McPhee often keeps playing riffs, Lacy is able to improvise around these lines (now and then they even display a certain kind of humor). You can hear how they process circus melodies, Lacy’s typical Monk themes or McPhee’s blues riffs and once there is even a short reminiscence of Henry Mancini’s “Elephant Walk”. But in general there is a strong focus on the percussive aspect of their playing.

 The album is not a competition between the two alpha dogs, it is sensational how they let each other breathe (especially at the end of the short performance) and it is hard to believe that this is a spontaneous get together when you hear how well Lacy’s sophisticated subtleness works with McPhee’s grounded energy.

The Rest is a limited one-sided LP (it is a 19-minutes-track), as usual on such Roaratorio releases the cover artwork is by Judith Lindbloom. A download coupon is included.

The album can be bought from

Listen to an excerpt here: