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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

A Pride Of Lions - No Questions No Answers (RogueArt, 2022)

 By Stef Gijssels

In February we published an overview article on Joe McPhee albums, and this album we received exactly one day too late to include it. The band consists of Joe McPhee on alto & soprano saxophones, pocket trumpet, Daunik Lazro on tenor & baritone saxophones, Joshua Abrams on double bass & guembri, Guillaume Séguron on double bass, and Chad Taylor on drums & mbira. The performance was recorded live at the Saalfelden Jazz Festival in 2018. This is the same band that also performed on the eponymously named A Pride of Lions in 2018. The interaction is excellent. 

McPhee and Lazro have a long-standing collaboration and their musical respect and common voice is obvious, even if both musicians have their distinct sound and approach. The fact that both artists switch horns all the time adds to the fun and the richness of the sound. 

McPhee and Lazro performed together 
  • As a duo on - "Elan, Impulse" (In Situ, 1991)
  • with Evan Parker on "Joe McPhee, Evan Parker, Daunik Lazro" (Vand'Oeuvre, 1996) 
  • Raymond Boni, Joe McPhee, Daunik Lazro, Claude Tchamitchian - "Next To You" (Emouvance - 2013)
  • as a duo on "The Cerkno Concert" (Klopotec, 2016)
  • Evan Parker, Daunik Lazro & Joe McPhee - "Seven Pieces - Live at Willisau 1995" (Clean Feed, 2016)
  • in the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet - "Sweet Oranges" (Not Two, 2018)
The album consists of three lengthy improvisations: "An Unanswered Question" clocks at more than 33 minutes, "An Unquestioned Answer" at 12 minutes and "Enough" at 6 minutes. 

The music develops slowly and consistently, with a key role for the two bass players. The sound is warm, eclectic with many references to African sounds, further reinforced by the use of the guembri and the mbira. Taylor's playing is crisp and invigorating, propulsing the band forward in a great rhythmic epic journey on the first track. The atmosphere is great throughout, with McPhee signature singing while playing, now supported by shouts from Lazro (?). 

The liner notes mention that all the music is improvised with the exception of a reference to Albert Ayler's "Spirits" in the second piece. The reference to Don Cherry's "Mopti" (from "Playing", 1981) after 24 minutes on the first track remains uncredited, but both mini tributes give you an idea of the deep roots in "traditional" free jazz this music offers. 

In sum, the quality of the playing is excellent, warm, welcoming and dynamic. Don't miss this one.