If you see Joe McPhee live these days you won’t believe that the man is 76 years old. When he was touring with Survival Unit III recently he danced on stage, he was full of energy and after the encore he jumped off the stage light-footedly.
Being one of today’s most important and influential improvisers McPhee started his career in the late 1960s (for the first time he appeared as a side man on Clifford Thornton’s Freedom and Unity in 1969), he has released seminal albums in the 1970s (e.g. Nation Time in 1970) before Werner X. Uehlinger founded HatHut Records with the initial intention to document and distribute his music in 1975. The result were more exceptional albums like Black Magic Man, Glasses or Topology, an album on which he presents his philosophy of Po Music, a creative concept inspired by Edward de Bono’s book 'Lateral Thinking'. Po is described as a “process of provocation“ standing for everything which is “positive, possible and poetic“, which perfectly describes McPhee’s artistic approach. At the end of the 1990s he became part of Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet and in 2004 he revived his Survival Unit with Fred Lonberg–Holm and Michael Zerang (among a lot of other projects).
On the occasion of his anniversary we will honor the man and his music with some reviews of his latest albums. Keep on keepin’ on, Mr. McPhee!
- Martin Schray