Music and More | Joe McPhee, Pascal Niggenkemper, Stale Liavik Solberg ‎– Imaginary Numbers


By Tim Nyland

The great progressive jazz musician Joe McPhee, here playing pocket trumpet and tenor saxophone, has been building partnerships with musicians from around the world for decades. On this album, which was recorded in Brooklyn in December of 2015 he is in the company of Pascal Niggenkemper on bass and Stale Liavik Solberg on drums and percussion. The trio plays three lengthy collective improvisations which work very well, and the musicians are deeply in sync with each other beginning with “I” which is the lengthiest piece, clocking in at over twenty three minutes. They investigate the open field before them, taking tentative stabs into the darkness with thick declamatory bass and skittish drumming that frame McPhee’s trumpet playing. This creates a vibrant synthesis that allows their improvisation to coalesce and move forward, and keeps the music in a state of flux throughout, never staying still. Niggenkemper moves to the bow, adding a low droning sound to the music that is met with spare percussion, and equally low toned trumpet. Creating eerie swathes of sound and incorporating a very interesting drum rhythm, which allows McPhee to switch to tenor saxophone and add long breaths of emotionally resonant sound to the proceedings. McPhee’s tenor develops a raw, rending sound that weaves through the complex rhythm of bass and drums and adds an element of continuity to the group’s improvisation, diving deeply into the extemporaneous nature of the music. Moving into “A Supreme Love (For John Coltrane)” they take that master saxophonists often overlooked later work as a license to create a spontaneous improvisation from the ground up with rattling and clanking bass and drums creating an unsettling feeling, and using the rapport and trust that they have built with each other to patiently develop a strong piece of music. McPhee majestically enters adding long stoic lines of saxophone, playing in an oblique manner, while gaining volume and intensity as they evoke the spirit of Coltrane without ever slipping into hagiography. Finally, “Zero” has unmoored percussion and bass providing a wide open foundation for the piece, with quick shivers of bass and percussive replies. McPhee adds smears of sound from his trumpet, accenting the bowed bass and drumming, while developing proper context for music that uses dynamic light and shade to good effect. The excellent timing of the musicians assures that these shifts occur seamlessly, with grinding bowed bass and spitfire trumpet at the fore, the music heads for the arena of raw sound. Moving out of this, the musicians develop a caustic free collective improvisation that is very exciting, pushing the limits of their instruments and reveling in the freedom that they obtain in the process.

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