A living legend of the open-form kind of jazz he plays since the Sixties, Joe McPhee is one of the most requested players of several musical fronts besides jazz, from Pauline Oliveros’ “deep listening” approach to new music to the free rock coalition formed by The Thing and Cato Salsa Experience (he played the music of Led Zeppelin with them), going through a collaboration with the noise makers of Nihilist Spasm Band. In recent years, he’s being invited frequently to work with European musicians of the improvised music field, and this trio is one of those cases: we find him with the German-French double bassist Pascal Niggenkemper (mostly associated with people like Harris Eisenstadt, Frantz Loriot and Joachim Badenhorst) and the Norwegian drummer who initiated this trio Ståle Solberg, usual companion of the likes of John Russell, Steve Beresford and John Edwards. And free improvisation is what you have in “Imaginary Numbers”, even though the one with its inner essence derived from the tradition of free jazz – in this case, searching for a stronger connection with the source, as the piece “A Supreme Love”, dedicated to John Coltrane, testifies. Indeed, the music here seems a coming back to its original home, with the improvisatory ideas of the rhythm section making peace with all the American cultural bag we listen in the way McPhee uses the pocket trumpet and the tenor saxophone. But this isn’t the peace of the swamps: there’s tension all along the narratives, showing that a group improvisation isn’t the search of a lowest common denominator. There’s no bad record with Joe McPhee on it, but this one may be one of his best.
JOE McPHEE, pocket trumpet, tenor sax PASCAL NIGGENKEMPER, double bass STALE LIAVIK SOLBERG, drums & percussion