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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Joe McPhee, Mikołaj Trzaska, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen - Magic (Not Two, 2010) ****½

After the excellent "Intimate Conversations", Joe McPhee and Mikołaj Trzaska release a new album together, again with Jay Rosen on drums, but now also with Dominic Duval on bass. You might say it's Trio X + Mikołaj Trzaska, and that's correct if you look at the names, but not when you listen to the music. This band does not even touch on the "traditional" Trio X repertoire. McPhee plays sax and pocket trumpet, Trzaska alto sax and bass clarinet.

The album starts with "The Magician", with tribal sounding tones from Trzaska, full of primitive incantations, slowly being joined by trumpet, bass and drums, and developing into a slow, smooth and warm open lyrical exploration. The fit between Trzaska and McPhee is almost perfect, since they have the same attitude to music, one of freedom, respect and authentic warmth. That doesn't mean they don't go wild at times, but the dominant element is careful and reverent. The first track immediately illustrates this range, from tribal over sensitive dialogues to more boppish uptempo steaming improvisations. The second piece is more free form in nature, with Duval playing arco, McPhee delving into the deeper regions of his tenor, Rosen accentuating, and Trzaska's alto adding layers of sensitivity on top. "Sex Toys" is more minimalist and subdued, with the musicians scarcely breaching through the silence, and I think rarely a track has received such an inappropriate name (there isn't even an orgasm of sound to conclude). The first CD ends with "I Remember Max", a luckily not too long drum solo by Jay Rosen, dedicated to Max Roach.

The second CD continues with the minimalist approach, with a long dialogue between the two saxes, interlocking and interweaving calm yet urgent phrases, with McPhee doing some quiet singing while blowing his sax, bursting open into a screaming duel, waking the sleeping dogs of drums and bass in the process. "Contra-ception" is a bass solo track by Duval, nohting wild, nothing too smooth either, and when he starts using his bow, some shouting brings back the sax for one of the most intense pieces of the album, that shifts mood a little over half-way when McPhee picks up his pocket trumpet: for almost spiritual gospell-like lyricism. One of the most beautiful tracks is the long and slow "Turtles Crossing", a tune that was already on McPhee's Jumala Quintet release with the same name. As the title suggests, there is no need to hurry (from the turtle's perspective of ignorance), but the deep tension of the menace of being crushed is omnipresent, and this horror of course gets articulated musically near the end of the track, but it ends happily.

Again, Trzaska is a perfect fit for this band, who deliver a strong, balanced and varied album of great instrumental power and coherent musical expression, full of emotional depth and moments of fun. Enjoy!

Recorded at Alchemia, Kraków, November 8, 2007

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© stef


Foka said...

I would give it five stars. At first, when I got the cd I had this song of Queen in my mind "It's a kind of magic". I wasn't disappointed. This record absolutely deserves the name. It's stunning. Glad you mention it:)

Stef said...

4.5 is almost 5....

I like these guys too much. Giving them 5 each time would not be good ...

Glad you like it