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January/February 1998

Joe McPhee Quartet
Legend Street Two
CIMP Recordings

Not so much steeped as seemingly confined by the ironic limitations of free jazz, saxophonist/trumpeter McPhee's commitment to the sub-genre is arguably unwavering as evident by Legend Street Two. With more emphasis on sound than song, Legend Street Two illustrates McPhee's penchant for creating terse, sonically bewildering soundscapes.

Complemented by saxophonist Frank Lowe, violinist David Prentice and drummer Charles Moffett, McPhee engages into some blatantly obscure interplay with his cohorts. On the Dolphy classic, "Something Sweet, Something Tender," McPhee states the melody at a pensive, almost lifeless stance before delving into structural deconstructuralism while violinist Prentice accompanies with piercing, intonation-surfing strumming. More cohesive is their exigent take on Charles Tyler's "There Was A Flower Near Napoli" where McPhee, Lowe and Prentice mournfully state the melody in unison before splintering into separate bleak directions. McPhee and Prentice commence in duo dueling on "Consider The Alternative," "Double Ten," and "E.P." with atonal aplomb, while the dense textures on "Not Absolute" amount to nothing more than clich d excessive blowing. Uncompromising in both structure and sound, Legend Street Two is a "for members only" listening experience.

Originally published in January/February 1998
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