Title:               Six Situations

 By:                  Joe McPhee, Damon Smith, Alvin Fielder

​ Released:       2017

 Format:          CD

 Catalog No:    MW 954-2

 Price :             12 EUR

Tracklist:
1. The Diagonal Of Personal Excstasy 19:10
2. Blue Trees In Wind 8:41
3. Alternate Diagonals 4:47
4. Red & Green Alternatives 23:58
5. The Blood Of A Martyr 5:29
6. Greens Crossing Greens 8:48

Recorded at Roulette, NYC on Sept.13, 2016

 

Line-up:

Joe McPhee – tenor sax, voice
Damon Smith – double bass
Alvin Fielder – drums

What the critics say:
The 19 minutes of the first track off Six Situations, 'The Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy', is a journey through the joys of improvised music making. The core duo of bassist Damon Smith, and drummer Alvin Fielder, first played together in 2010 and their collaborative spirit remains strong through today, as evidenced by their recent duo release Song for Chico. Saxophonist Joe McPhee, of course, is a musician whose presence always enhances the 'situation.' 

Launching into a spirited set at Brooklyn's Roulette during September 2016 the newly formed trio's approach is captured well in a line from Smith's liner notes: "What emerged between Alvin and myself is mix of total free improvisation with swinging quarter notes never far away." Add McPhee to the proceeding statement and you have Six Situations in the making: swinging, energetic, and free. It's a winning combination that melds the wild pulse of classic free jazz with edgy and exciting improvisation.

The aforementioned first track begins with a long passage where Smith and Fielder exchange ideas and lay the groundwork for McPhee. He comes in with some hearty sounds which builds momentum over tje looping pulse. Smith's solo passage about half-way into the track deftly incorporates space and dynamics to accentuate the taut scratching passage before an actual howl escapes from McPhee as he re-enters the conversation. The tune winds down with a concise bluesy refrain and an extended percussion outro. 

The follow up 'Blue Trees in Wind' is again introduced by Fielder's and Smith's extended techniques – deft plucks and bowed skronks, all applied expertly around Fielder's brushwork. McPhee enters with a laid back melody that begins to fray and fracture as the piece continues. Smith injects a tumultuous counter melody as the tension comes to a head. 'Alternate Diagonals' does indeed offer a different perspective on the previous direction. This time McPhee takes the reins and introduces a Gustafsson-like rhythmic figure that the others rally around. It's short but powerful. 

The next track, a 23-minute track entitled 'Red & Green Alternatives' starts off the second half of the album which doesn't disappoint. The song is more textural, starting off with soft percussion and light smears of sounds from Smith. When McPhee shows up, it's nearly 10 minutes in, following an intense duet. He vocalizes through the instrument before settling into a forlorn solo melody. 

All said, Six Situations documents three excellent musicians sharing a strong musical rapport. The rich supply of ideas in their collective possession is enough to make the most of any situation.

(review courtesy of Paul Acquaro and FreeJazzBlog.org)

*****

Bassist Damon Smith and drummer Alvin Fielder have a good thing going. Despite residing in different locales and juggling busy dockets they’ve made it a priority to renew and advance their musical rapport whenever possible, a duo project on Smith’s Balance Point Acoustics being a recent, highly satisfying example. Six Situations makes their dynamic dyad even better with the inspired addition of Joe McPhee on tenor to form a trio. Recorded at the venerable Roulette venue in New York City it’s a free jazz conclave at once in the tradition and transcendent of the same in the vibrant gathering of passion and skill each player brings to the stage. McPhee further reveals the lineage in written form through a poem penned to John Coltrane and James Baldwin printed on the gate-fold sleeve.

The six situations vary dramatically in duration and design. Inspired by a series of artworks by Dan Flavin, they find the players planting common ground from the jump.  “The Diagonal of Personal Ecstasy” and “Red & Green Alternatives” are both sprawling marathons, collectively clocking to nearly three-quarters of an hour. On the first a drum invocation from Fielder defers to an opening tenor salvo from McPhee shaded in subtle overtones. Fielder strikes small bells in the interstices between horn phrases as Smith arrives, his bow cantilevering and sawing forcefully against strings to create a startling array of aural activity. Energy and momentum build and ebb with the three players cuing each other through spontaneously devised changes on both outings that feel wholly agreed upon despite their nascency.

Shorter pieces “Alternate Diagonals” and “The Blood of a Martyr” trade duration for intensity. McPhee blows strafing blasts on the former, adding vocal shouts for punctuation as Fielder fluctuates between focused aggression and scrupulous subtlety at his kit. Smith concerns himself with carefully threading a rising and receding bass rumble. The second excursion relies less on velocity than concentrated mood, McPhee honking and slurring only to fall silent as Smith shapes another impressive aural edifice of highly ordered tones. A loping bass figure emerges stamped by Fielder’s snare and the lonely murmur of a haunted tenor extemporization that eventually dissipates into a breathy rasp.

Falling in between their brethren at eight minutes-and-change each are the chromatically-charged “Blue Trees In the Wind” and the closing “Greens Crossing Greens”. The controlled clatter of sticks starts the first with tightly wound strings supplying brooding answer in a marriage of conventional and extended techniques. McPhee brings a modified gospel swagger in response, voicing low and easy on his horn against a robust walking line.  Fielder conjures another drum preface on the second piece, his sticks parsing a clean martial beat that veers smoothly into a deeply resonant improvisation by Smith, running the range of his fingerboard with digits and bow against the faint brushes of his colleague. McPhee’s entry is surprisingly restrained, shaping legato forms over a gently swaying rhythm. Situations such as these bear repeating.

(review courtesy of Derek Taylor and dustedmagazine.tumblr.com)

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