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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Joe McPhee & John Heward - Voices : 10 Improvisations (Mode, 2008) ****

When two masters of free improvisation join forces, you can expect fireworks, and that is what you get here. Joe McPhee (pocket trumpet, soprano sax) and John Heward (drums, kalimba), create some wonderful music in ten improvisations, as the title suggests. The fact that both musicians are skilled in various instruments offers additional depth and variation. For once, McPhee uses his pocket trumpet much more than usual, and with great success. True, the range of the instrument is more limited than the sax, but McPhee manages to cross that divide by adding feeling, going to the extremes from clear-toned plaintive wails to hard-blown voiceless whispers, or on the first tracks even gurgling sounds as if the bath is emptying. Heward is sensitive and creative and is a great sparring partner for McPhee's spiritual excursions and avant-garde try-outs. There are moments of deeply emotional and sensitive playing, as on "Improvisation 2", alternated with moments of great intensity, with hard and forceful dialogues, as on "Improvisation 3". As of "Improvisation 5", McPhee switches to soprano without changing the approach. There are subdued moments, and again full force blowing, but the CD ends with a beautiful and fragile improvisation, the highlight of the album. Sure, McPhee and Heward have albums that are better than this one, but those interested in both musicians will find this a great addition to their catalogue.

Listen to
Improvisation 1
Improvisation 2