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John Heward, Joe McPhee

Voices: Ten Improvisations

Label: Mode

Format: CD

Genre: Experimental

In stock


This superb pairing of two top-flight improvisors reminds me of why I listen to this music. It’s not about ‘music’, it’s about sounds and their making. It’s a given that these two can really ‘play’. Joe McPhee established that in the immediate post-Coltrane era, and Heward – while I know little about him except that he’s also a visual artist who recorded a duo album on Avant with Steve Lacy – I’m sure he can really whack those tubs. The point, however, is that they don’t ‘just play’, they also listen – and they refrain from playing.  So each of these ten pieces is like a little jewel of sound that two guys built out of powdered glass in the afternoon sun and then blew away. I could listen all winter for how they did it, and be none the wiser; and yet wiser for contemplating it – because sometimes questions teach more than answers. These two guys have recorded before, in a trio. Here, the absence of a rhythm ‘section’ allows the sound to float. Heward is free to play the drums rather than just hit them, an impression heightened by his frequent use of kalimba. McPhee makes liberal use of pocket trumpet as well as alto sax, extending his technique peripherally with valve sounds, and a bowl of water. The results are analogous to natural sounds, as if we could rely on a squeaking door to know which part of the hinge makes the most engaging groans. That’s a door I could listen to all day. — Bruce Russell, The Wire, July 2008

Cat. number: Avant 05
Year: 2018