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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Joe McPhee & Clifton Hyde - New Forms, New Sounds - Music for Alain Kirili (Acitoxe Records, 2023)

By Don Phipps

This fascinating duo consisting of the remarkable multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, whose contributions to the free jazz idiom are most noteworthy (check out his work with Trio X!), and Clifton Hyde, a noted film composer who has played with the likes of Michael Stipe (R.E.M), Patti Smith, Philip Glass, Lou Reed, and The Kinks Dave Davies, offer up an album that documents a 2006 live performance at the Roulette (located in lower Manhattan at the time of the recording but which has since moved to Brooklyn) in honor of then living French sculptor Alain Kirili.

Kirili was an artist known for creating new and innovative ways to not only view sculpture, but to experience it as well. And the 15 pieces here likewise encapsulate new and innovative avenues of sound experiences.

While a virtuoso on both saxophone (tenor, alto, and soprano) and trumpet, McPhee here stays with the alto sax and pocket trumpet. Hyde, a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, mandolin, zither, piano, baritone saxophone, and French Horn (among other instruments), uses only guitars and the mandolin. Together, the two produce a kaleidoscope of music that shatters and reforms, like some kind of CGI reversal of reality. Both musicians create sputters and outbursts that at times suggest the energy of a bucking bronco, while, in other moments, use long legato notes to blow or strum solemn, almost reverent lines.

The music here has a wide emotional range that is both captivating and at times jarring. For example, towards the end of “Lacoon Deux,” the notes sound like a kind of chemical experiment gone haywire. On “Improvisation Tellem,” Hyde provides a bluesy undercurrent, revealing his Mississippi roots. On “Nudite,” Hyde adds vocal utterings and screams like someone being murdered in a dark foreboding forest while McPhee’s sax wails like a screaming eagle. On “Generations,” the music has a sadness, like a stray dog wondering what’s next in life.

Hyde adds unusual texture to the music by using his guitars to create percussive effects. He at times reverts to hillbilly-like strums while McPhee develops phrases in response. Sometimes the music breaks into a demonic dance while at other times it sounds like foghorns in the distance, an early morning harbor call between ships.

Hyde performs a wonderful solo rendition of Ornette Coleman’s masterpiece, “Lonely Woman.” Oddly, the title given is “Femme Seule,” which according to one translation, means “a woman alone.” One wonders why the piece was renamed on this album.

McPhee ends the concert with a soliloquy that reflects on the “difficult” and “dangerous” life of the artist. He says that it’s up to each person to decide “what’s real and what’s not real.” Most telling is his statement that “listening (to free music) is not a passive experience…. It’s an active experience.” True words – and this concert is most certainly active, a fascinating interplay of two masters of their instruments and the sounds they create.


FreeJazz Jeff said...

I don't see this recording released anywhere.... other than on YouTube?
No info about it on Bandcamp or Discogs.
Neither can I find much info on Acitoxe Records.

FreeJazz Jeff said...

As I do not support Spotify or Apple Music, it appears I'll
be in trouble finding this ....