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Joe McPhee/Joe Giardullo: Specific Gravity

Fans of Joe McPhee must consider this a golden period of visibility, if nothing else, for the multireedist. McPhee continues to churn out new recordings on labels like Cadence and Boxholder as his difficult-to-find early work resurfaces on labels like Hathut and Atavistic. The flow continues unabated with this pair of spare, patient recordings from the multi-instrumentalist.

Specific Gravity finds McPhee in the company of fellow fringe dweller and reedman Joe Giardullo. For the program, Giardullo adds his real-time electronics, which are among the most minimal and tasteful out there: on “A Priori,” its ticking as if from an alarm clock; elsewhere its selective echo effect. The two men work slowly and deliberately, each giving the other the utmost space, focusing on nuance in interval and texture. The recording peaks on the starkly beautiful, delicate rendition of Coltrane’s “After the Rain.”

On Tour, the third recording of Trio X, features McPhee with regular collaborators, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. Where Duval’s recent work with McPhee has been dense and jagged, here the trio lets the air in-preferring long, sparse windups and slower deliveries. Sometimes taking as long as 10 minutes, the group’s long passages of diffuse free improv morph into relatively straight recitals of familiar melodies, which include “My Funny Valentine,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Blue Monk” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” McPhee and company pull apart and reassemble the tunes with concentration and respect, showing off not only their extended techniques and free-blowing chops, but also a strong sense of melodic invention and an affecting way with the blues.

Originally Published