Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Haker Flaten – BROOKLYN DNA (CF 244)
The superb multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee – who is this year receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Vision Festival – teams up on Brooklyn DNA with ace contrabassist Haker Flaten for a terse, tart series of duets that exude energy but are grounded in a undeniably engaging melodic sensibility. The riff-based “Crossing the Bridge” gets things started off in exuberant fashion, with hot, ragged, tone-bending alto teasing out an Ornette-ish refrain. “Spirit Cry” finds McPhee on soprano, exploring another simple, cell-like phraseology while Haker Flaten works out some chromatic shapes to create the effect of a staggered counter-phrase here, a pinwheeling harmonic center there. The focus and abecedarian structure of some of these tunes certainly recall Lacy, but in some sense I’m also reminded – perhaps especially with the restless lyricism of “Putnam Central,” with brassy sputter from pocket trumpet – of Julius Hemphill’s duets with Abdul Wadud. There’s more information in this brief album than in a dozen meandering duets, and the music is with each moment committed, emotional, and imaginative. Just listen to “Blue Coronet’s” groaning, gravity-sucked double-stops and that intensely forlorn McPhee melodic sense as the sound becomes aroused, with the bassist moaning and pizzing so vigorously that the tune ascends into buzzing joint pointillism. After a blast of heat and density on “214 Martense,” the squeaking circular breathing of pocket trumpet and bowed metal sounds of “Enoragt Maeckt Haght” make for a nice changeup. And for the concluding “Here and Now,” McPhee patiently blows soprano to create beautiful layered rhythms and contrasting articulations between the pair. This is the real shit.

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