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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

McPhee Marker - McPhee Marker (Corbett vs. Dempsey , 2022)

By Martin Schray

It’s been ten years since I wrote my first review for the Free Jazz Collective. I wanted to support this website after my love affair with this music had become more and more passionate in the years before. In recent years, however, my affection has cooled a bit, the rapture of the beginning has given way to a certain routine, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing (especially for my bank account). But lately there have been several new releases recently that left me as euphoric as I was in the old days - rediscovered treasures like Charles Mingus’s The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's, Albert Ayler's Revelations or Ultraman vs. Alien Metron by Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet as well as new recordings like the five albums John Butcher recorded in Berlin or Myra Melford’s For the Love of Fire and Water. And there's McPhee Marker.

Marker is Ken Vandermark’s relatively new project that he started in 2017 with then lesser known musicians, specifically Andrew Clinkman (guitar), Steve Marquette (guitar), Macie Stewart (keyboards) and Phil Sudderberg (drums). The idea for this 12’ inch single (yes, they still exist) came about following a project for a 2019 concert for which Vandermark was asked to arrange a set of music from the 1970s. Among the tracks chosen were Parliament’s "Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples" and DNA’s "Egomaniac's Kiss," the two tracks Marker eventually recorded for this record. Guest starring is Vandermark’s old buddy Joe McPhee, who embodies the proverbial bridge to that era.

Even though the two originals are based on 1970s grooves, they couldn’t be more different. "Egomaniac's Kiss“ is a classic No Wave banger, abstract, weird and broken. On the surface, this seems to be typical for the genre, a fast, disjointed DIY track, devoid of any development and virtually physically assaulting the audience. McPhee Marker’s version is not far from the original, albeit instrumental (Arto Lindsay's vocals would have been hard to replace, though). It comes across a bit more sluggish, but also more organic. On "Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples" the difference between the original and the cover version are bigger, as McPhee Marker swap the P-Funk for a No Wave approach. The fat, dirty groove and Bootsy Collins’s signature bass are replaced by harshness and abstraction, which surprisingly works very well and gives both tracks a new, similar identity. Anyone who says you can't dance to free jazz will be mercilessly proven wrong here.

McPhee Marker is available on vinyl only as a 12’ inch single. There are only 750 copies. Hurry up, it's worth it.


Stef said...

Thanks for your enthusiasm Martin and for the continued effort to review great albums.

Martin Schray said...

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do that, Stef. It's been a pleasure.