Joe McPhee, Mikolaj Trzaska, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen
Not Two Records

The story goes that Mikolaj Trzaska, a longtime fan of McPhee, sought out Trio X at a performance in Krakow in 2006 to ask if he could play with the group. With that meeting, a plan evolved for a 2007 tour with the support of Not Two Records owner, Marek Winiarski. Trzaska and Trio X together became the group Magic. The two-disc set, Magic, documents the 2007 tour in Poland.

Given the improvisational expertise of McPhee on alto sax, clarinet and pocket trumpet, of Trzaska on alto sax and bass clarinet, Duval on bass, and Jay Rosen on drums, this recording imparts more than anyone could expect. The musicians inspire and interact with one another in exceptionally intricate and subtle ways. The smallest details of the playing fill volumes of space with intelligent musical conversation, no matter whether one, two, three or all four are involved in the improvisation. The instrumental layering is so clear and unique that listening is an extraordinarily fulfilling challenge. There is bubbling and boiling, but absolutely no mayhem.

Duval and Rosen transcend their rhythm-section-ness. Their responsiveness to the horns is stunning. Duval’s infusion of his beautifully shaped arco and pizzicato technique at befitting junctures in the music is particularly noteworthy. His solo, “Contra-ception,” displays how his relaxed fingers feather the bass strings, catch one or two in a twang to spring further into new, softly expressive patterns. Rosen’s essential timing ensures that the actions of any other instruments are not so much ornamented as logically enhanced. Rosen’s drumming is never syrupy; it is dry, clean and rhythmically acute, even when he opens up on cymbals. His solo, “I Remember Max,” ends the first disc.

McPhee and Trzaska are a musical marriage made in heaven. Their exchanges extend and complement what each is doing. Their instruments can assume one direction, even though, for example, McPhee might be playing a pocket trumpet and Trzaska, the alto, or McPhee is barely singing through the reed of his sax while Trzaska is restraining his arpeggios. In the opening “The Magician,” their solo lines overlap; their artfulness, distinguishable. In the closing “Transaction,” their phrasing is so interlocked and focused that they sing together as in a choir--in unison or contrapuntally; or one blows high and the other low, their contrasting tonalities, a means to suffuse their sound with unaffected sincerity.


  • Aug 14, 2010 at 08:33AM Gunnar Pfabe

    dear Lyn, indeed a very nice article, thank you, i am the agent of Trio X and Mikolaj Trzaska.
    One thing about what "the story goes" is wrong, dear inventive journalist,
    actually it was guess who who brought the guys together (and it was in Warsaw, not in Kraków during a gig with TrioX with Matthew Shipp solo as an opener) for the simple reason that we needed a good polish name to play with TrioX on a first polish tour to get the gigs AT ALL !!! Who was more predestinated do do that job then Mikolaj Trzaska ! I then presented the idea to Marek, why not say it loud :-)) and Mikolaj helped on 50% of the gigs, just to be clear: Mikolaj would NEVER try to sneak himself into a profitable situation taht way from alone ! Consequently, as it worked out excellently as i expected from begin, a few months later Mikolaj got his first US tour with MAGIC. Please do not invent "stories to go" which leads to wrong images of high talented artists. Anybody wants to book this band ? European booking:

  • Aug 14, 2010 at 04:29PM Gunnar Pfabe

    After some correspondence in a very friendly ambiance with the creator of above article i learned that Lyn unfortunately got misinformed about the outer circumstances and trustfully reflected what she heared from a second hand source. So, she is not to be seen as an "inventive journalist", but defenitely an engaged connoisseur of our genre of music, what actually is more important than the reteller of basically unimportant outer circumstances, important for it's survival in these difficult times of commercial interests. Happy to let you all know ... Gunnar Pfabe

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