RTV: Joe McPhee // Trio X

Release Date: Friday, April 2, 2010

Joe McPhee performs a fully improvised set with Trio X, Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen.

Since his emergence on the creative jazz and new music scene in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Joe McPhee has been a deeply emotional composer, improviser, and multi-instrumentalist as well as a thoughtful conceptualist and theoretician. McPhee’s first recordings as a leader appeared on the CjR label, founded in 1969 by a painter, Craig Johnson. By 1974, Swiss entrepreneur Werner X. Uehlinger had become aware of McPhee’s recordings and unreleased tapes and was so impressed that he decided to form the Hat Hut label as a vehicle to release McPhee’s work. The label’s first LP was Black Magic Man, which had been recorded by McPhee in 1970. The earliest recordings by McPhee are often informed by the revolutionary movements of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s; for example, Nation Time is a tribute to poet Amiri Baraka and Joe McPhee & Survival Unit II at WBAI’s Free Music Store, 1971 (finally released as a Hat Art CD in 1996) is a sometimes anguished post- Coltrane cry for freedom and liberation. In the early 1980s McPhee met a composer, accordionist, performer, and educator, Pauline Oliveros, whose theories of “deep listening” strengthened his interests in extended instrumental and electronic techniques. McPhee also read Edward de Bono’s book “Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity,” which presents concepts for solving problems by “disrupting an apparent sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle.” Since then McPhee has appeared on such labels as CIMP, Okkadisk, Music & Arts, Cadence Jazz Records, and Victo, and collaborated with such artists as Ken Vandermark, Kent Kessler, Peter Brötzmann, Dominic Duval, and Jay Rosen (Trio X). With a career now spanning over 37 years and more than 60 recordings, Joe McPhee has shown that emotional content and theoretical underpinnings are thoroughly compatible — and in fact, a critically important pairing — in the world of creative improvised music.


Joe McPhee, born in Miami, Florida in 1939, is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser, conceptualist, and theoretician.
He began playing the trumpet at age eight, taught by his father who was a trumpet player. He continued on that instrument through his formative school years and later in a U.S. Army band stationed in Germany, at which time he was introduced to performing traditional jazz. Clifford Thornton’s “Freedom and Unity,” released in 1969 on the Third World label, is the first recording on which he appears as a side man. In 1968, inspired by the music of Albert Ayler, he took up the saxophone and began an active involvement in both acoustic and electronic music.