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Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten: Blue Chicago Blues

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In Blue Chicago Blues, recorded in 2007, the duo of tenor player Joe McPhee and bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten balances out very well, in ethnicity, instrumentation, musical personality, and tonal character. McPhee is relaxed with the openness of his horn and Håker-Flaten, attentively diligent at emphasizing the tautness of his bass strings. “Requiem for An Empty Heart” sounds the blues-iest of all of the six tracks. But McPhee’s poetry on the back cover of the record jacket settles any question of how blues are anyway: “For this here ain’t nothin’ but the blues, nasty, low down, trifflin’ and sweet…” Dedicated to the late Chicago tenorman, Fred Anderson, the recording refers to blues-makers Oliver Nelson and Ornette Coleman and simple imaginations of the downtrodden or the mercurial female kind.

Håker-Flaten is one-third of The Thing, the trio with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and Swedish reedman Mats Gustafsson. McPhee has performed with them many times from their inception in 2000. Norwegian Håker-Flaten is a small, compact, energetic, perpetual motion machine. His technique is generally born of precision and expedition, yet, his slow-tempo pizzicato presents itself with a guitar-like resonance. The bassist also sings out-loud when the feeling calls for it.

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