In 1976, Joe McPhee recorded the landmark album Tenor, kicking off a solo period of finding and refining the distinctive voice that continues to inform his music to this day. Solos : The Lost Tapes (1980 – 1981 – 1984) is a collection of material from McPhee’s personal archives that shines new light on the legendary multi-instrumentalist’s work during this time. “Wind Cycles,” for tenor saxophone, explores the permutations of breath on reed and brass, from quiet whispers to full-throated cries and back again. With “The Redwood Rag,” McPhee takes a jaunty melody and gives it a swinging workout with Steve Lacy-like precision. The free-blowing alto excursion “Ice Blu” is, in McPhee’s words, “a sound which evokes an image, which asks a question ‘What is that?’ and the answer is, a sound which evokes an image which asks a question.” “Voices,” one of his signature compositions, gets a particularly haunting treatment here on soprano, with McPhee incorporating various electronics to mesmerizing effect. All together, Solos : The Lost Tapes (1980 – 1981 – 1984) is the distilled essence of one of the most important creative improvising musicians of our time.
“Whether it’s amplifying keypad pops or finding harmonics that split his notes into a mass of complex, unfurling tones, he gets you with a feeling as well as a sound… Although McPhee’s music is without compromise, he’s always struck me an excellent gateway figure for people trying to get a handle on free improvisation because the connections between his confrontational and approachable sides is never too hard to find.” – Bill Meyer, Still Single
Joe McPhee / saxophones, electronics
Artwork by Judith Lindbloom
Available as a 320k MP3 or 16bit FLAC download
1. Wind Cycles - 14:48
2. The Redwood Rag - 3:50
3. Ice Blu - 6:52
4. Voices - 13:02
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 leader appeared on the CjR label, founded in 1969 by painter Craig Johnson . These include Underground Railroad by the Joe McPhee Quartet in 1969, Nation Time by Joe McPhee in 1970, and Trinity by Joe McPhee, Harold E. Smith and Mike Kull in 1971.
By 1974, Swiss entrepreneur Werner X. Uehlinger had become aware of McPhee’s recordings and unreleased tapes. Uehlinger 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. Black Magic Man was followed by The Willisau Concert and the landmark solo recording Tenor, released by Hat Hut in 1976. 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.
During the 1990’s, McPhee finally began to attract wider attention from the North American creative jazz community. He has since been performing and recording prodigiously as both leader and collaborator, appearing on such labels as CIMP, Okkadisk, Music & Arts, and Victo. In 1996, 20 years after Tenor, Hatology released As Serious As Your Life, another solo recording (this time featuring McPhee performing on various instruments). McPhee also began a fruitful relationship with Chicago reedman Ken Vandermark , engaging in a set of improvisational dialogues with Vandermark and bassist Kent Kessler on the 1998 Okkadisk CD A Meeting in Chicago. The Vandermark connection also led to McPhee’s appearance on the Peter BrotzmanChicagoOctet/Tentet three-CD box set released by Okkadisk that same year. As the 1990s drew to a close, McPhee discovered two like-minded improvisers in bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen- TRIO X.
"He is a stellar improviser, relishing his sound materials so caringly and for so long, the kind of player that invites you to really step outside of whatever mix you're and think and feel for a while." Hank Shteamer, Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches