Tag Archives: Brooklyn DNA

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

CF 244Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten – Brooklyn DNA Clean Feed (CF 244)
Joe McPhee Trio First Date (CJR-8)
Persistent in his exploration of fresh musical currents in the improvised tradition, multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee remains indefatigable 46 years after his first recording and as he settles into his eighth decade. Comfortably conversant in any sized ensemble, from his justly renowned solo discs to his long-time membership in Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, the Poughkeepsie, New York resident usually does his most profound work in smaller configurations. Take these high-quality CDs, recorded at four different years.

First Date is significant because its first three tracks are the primary recording by McPhee’s still extant touring band, Trio X, consisting of himself on saxophones and pocket trumpet, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. The final track captures the trio in concert six years later. Recorded in 2011, Brooklyn DNA matches the multi-instrumentalist with resourceful Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten, who now resides in Austin. Dedicated to New York’s second most storied borough and its comprehensive Jazz history, this is more of a so-called Jazz record than the more experimental other one, recorded live at New York’s third annual Vision Festival.

First Date is more experimental for the simple reason that McPhee, Duval and Rosen didn’t expect this gig would turn into a long-time arrangement, and throughout you can hear the three trying out assorted strategies and narratives. There’s also a question of balance. While Duval, who has worked with no problem alongside saxophonists as individual as Ivo Perelman and Charles Gayle immediately sets up rapprochement with McPhee similar to Jimmy Garrison with John Coltrane or David Izenzon with Ornette Coleman, initially Rosen seems left out of the equation. This situation is only rectified when the saxophonist’s New Thing-like bites and cries and the bassist’s pumping whorls subside into mid-range so that Rosen’s more restrained percussion patterns are heard. With the subtlety of a recital percussionist, the drummer fastens on textures that can be vibrated, including bell ringing, hi-hat slapping and cymbal shaking. He stays true to this formula even when McPhee digs deeply into his soprano saxophone’s innards, pushing discordant reed tessitura to the limit before settling into unforeseen reed bites and multiphonics. Duval continues his role with a combination of harsh scrubs and rappels up-and-down his strings while Rosen’s contributes infrequent pops and some whistle blowing. Eventually the piece concludes.

Rosen’s percussion is just as restrained but resourceful as well in the Rochester, N.Y. set from 2004. Although his texture of choice appears to be the delicate plink of finger cymbals, he’s more upfront throughout with clanks and clicks from drum top and sides plus cymbal shakes. Duval too is more assertive slapping strings and bowing them in the lowest pitch, while McPhee advances the instant composition with gouts of contrapuntal glossolalia, emotional squeals and staccato freneticism, followed every step of the way by the bassist’s ragged arpeggios and the drummer’s smacks. In tandem with a pulsating bass solo, McPhee signals the ending while exploring every nuance of a secondary spiritual-like variant which combines rhythm and lyricism.

Duval’s brawny interaction is matched by the measured and powerful strokes of Håker-Flaten on the other CD. Håker-Flaten, who regularly interacts with saxophone heavy hitters such as Frode Gjerstad and Mats Gustafsson, demonstrates his inventiveness throughout. He outputs a thick carpet of passing chords to meet McPhee more outré reed excursions; or has spidery string slithers at his finger tips when the themes turn near-romantic.

Tunes such as “Blue Coronet” and “214 Martens”, respectively celebrating the legendary Brooklyn Jazz haunt and the late tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, indicate the duality. The latter includes the two players challenging one another with contrapuntal altissimo reed cries and slashing string slaps at the top and sharp violent horn vibrations plus continuous string whapping as the finale; with McPhee pushing out a half-imaginary Redman like melody in the middle. A combination of honk and hyperbole McPhee’s alto saxophone solo on “Blue Coronet” appropriately salutes many of the Jazzers who gigged at the club. With matter-of-fact strumming from Håker-Flaten his anchor, he moves from expressive, late-night abstractions to a touch of straight-ahead blowing.

“Enoragt Maeckt Haght” brings out some of the most abstract yet affective playing on the date, with the bassist pinching his strings near the scroll before outputting double and triple stopped notes while the saxophonist moves from deep inside the body tube growls and upwards stretching bugle-like tones to reach strident reed bites and tongue slaps that make perfect sense alongside the bassist’s narrative.

The most telling piece however may be the final one, “Here and Now”. Here the two are transported to the 21st Century with an exposition mixing powerful bass slaps and alto sax note clusters that gradually attains new balance as the composition speeds up. Finally harsh bent notes from both result in a satisfactory tandem ending.

More proof – if any is needed – that at 73 plus McPhee continuous to operate at top form, no matter his partners in sound.

Le Son du Grisli review by Guillaume Belhomme

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten – Brooklyn DNA (CF 244)
Plusieurs fois avons-nous pu entendre comment fraternisent Joe McPhee et Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten : récemment en quartette sur Ibsen’s Ghosts et en duo sur Blue Chicago Blues. Quatre ans après cette rencontre à deux, McPhee et Håker Flaten enregistraient le matériau de Brooklyn DNA.

Un art nerveux de la confrontation, écrivait-on hier. Aujourd’hui, un alto répétant une sélection de graves permet au contrebassiste d’inventer une mélodie au son de laquelle fuir l’opposition ; un soprano met en joie un Håker Flaten hors ligne ; une trompette de poche change peu à peu ses expérimentations en expressions vives ; quelques souffles clairs commandent à l’archet de se lever enfin. Ci-fait, la contrebasse peut attirer à elle toute l’invention de McPhee : qui créé une intense ballade dans le sillon tracé par les cordes ou balance sur deux ou trois notes avant de jouer des épaules. Ainsi ces retrouvailles McPhee / Håker-Flaten gagnent-elles en diversité ce qu’elles perdent en autorité : font preuve de flamboyance quand ce n’est pas de haute impertinence.

Culture Jazz review by Jean Buzelin

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – Brooklyn DNA (CF 244)
Nous bouclons la boucle avec Joe McPhee qui cible précisément à l’année 1966 et le disque Blue Note de Don Cherry, “Where is Brooklyn ?“, auquel McPhee répond en 2011 par Here and Now ! On ne peut être plus clair. Les titres des morceaux renvoient explicitement aux clubs de ce célèbre quartier où jouaient Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, J.J. Johnson, Dewey Redman… sans oublier le fameux pont où s’installait Sonny Rollins. On appréciera, comme toujours, le jeu extrêmement sensible et prenant de McPhee, notamment au saxo-alto (il délaisse ici le ténor) et à la trompette de poche, son autre instrument de prédilection, et celui de Don Cherry. Il dialogue ici avec le contrebassiste norvégien Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, peu connu dans nos contrées mais parfaitement en osmose avec son partenaire. Une musique réfléchie qui ne manque ni de force ni de conviction, mais de la part d’un musicien aussi intègre, on ne pouvait en douter.

Squid’s Ear review by Paul Serralheiro

Joe McPhee/Ingebright Haker Flaten – Brooklyn DNA (CF 244)
The articulate and prolific American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee is joined by Norwegian bass heavyweight Ingebright Haker Flaten in a tandem tribute to the Borough of Brooklyn in this recent release from Lisbon’s Clean Feed label. The duo, evenly matched for their common characteristics of brawny sound and ecstatic sense of musical phrase, here get to exchanges ideas about such thematic starting points as Sonny Rollins “The Bridge,” long-time Brooklyn resident Dewey Redman and the Brooklyn motto “Enoragt Maect Haght,” a Dutch phrase meaning “Unity Makes Strength.”

Strength is definitely a trait that jumps out from this session. It stems, right at the first listen, from McPhee’s sense of form, his consistent ability to develop motivic ideas with fertile melodic thinking in a free improv setting that results in coherent and formal, albeit spontaneously composed, pieces. The Calypso-like tune that emerges on “Crossing the Bridge” recalls Rollins’ inspired rhythmic flights, but is also reminiscent of McPhee’s long-time influence, Albert Ayer, for its concise yet powerful nature.

Fans of McPhee’s trumpet playing will be spoiled here, as the mostly saxophone-centric player lets loose on the pocket version of this instrument on “Putnam Central,” laying down his inimitable fluid style of brass, against a sympathetic bubbling bass counter line, and in “Enoragt Maect Haght” McPhee moans a lyrical dirge on the horn, replete with airy passages and an exchange of timbres and textural explorations with Haker Flaten of an imaginative and intriguing kind.

A stalwart of the free jazz scene since the 1970s, McPhee is blessed with a bottomless wellspring of ideas and gets them across with chops that only seem to get better with age. And here, there is the added bonus in Ingebright Haker Flaten of a more than suitable partner/foil who has the brawn and the brains to match the older master.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Haker Flaten – BROOKLYN DNA (CF 244)
The superb multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee – who is this year receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Vision Festival – teams up on Brooklyn DNA with ace contrabassist Haker Flaten for a terse, tart series of duets that exude energy but are grounded in a undeniably engaging melodic sensibility. The riff-based “Crossing the Bridge” gets things started off in exuberant fashion, with hot, ragged, tone-bending alto teasing out an Ornette-ish refrain. “Spirit Cry” finds McPhee on soprano, exploring another simple, cell-like phraseology while Haker Flaten works out some chromatic shapes to create the effect of a staggered counter-phrase here, a pinwheeling harmonic center there. The focus and abecedarian structure of some of these tunes certainly recall Lacy, but in some sense I’m also reminded – perhaps especially with the restless lyricism of “Putnam Central,” with brassy sputter from pocket trumpet – of Julius Hemphill’s duets with Abdul Wadud. There’s more information in this brief album than in a dozen meandering duets, and the music is with each moment committed, emotional, and imaginative. Just listen to “Blue Coronet’s” groaning, gravity-sucked double-stops and that intensely forlorn McPhee melodic sense as the sound becomes aroused, with the bassist moaning and pizzing so vigorously that the tune ascends into buzzing joint pointillism. After a blast of heat and density on “214 Martense,” the squeaking circular breathing of pocket trumpet and bowed metal sounds of “Enoragt Maeckt Haght” make for a nice changeup. And for the concluding “Here and Now,” McPhee patiently blows soprano to create beautiful layered rhythms and contrasting articulations between the pair. This is the real shit.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Haker Flaten – Brooklyn DNA (CF 244)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Due anni dopo Blue Chicago Blues (Not Two Records), Joe McPhee e Ingebrigt Haker Flaten riprendono le loro esplorazioni concentrandosi su un altro luogo centrale per il jazz statunitense, Brooklyn. Brooklyn come centro vivo, palpitante della vita sociale e culturale dei neri di New York. Brooklyn come crocevia storico del jazz, popolato di personaggi che tra gli anni quaranta e gli anni sessanta, hanno contribuito ad alimentarne la leggenda. Brooklyn, quartiere che nel corso degli anni ha più volte cambiato volto, raccontato da musicisti che questa tradizione la leggono attraverso la lente d’ingrandimento dell’esperienza free vissuta in prima persona. Musicisti come Joe McPhee, fondamentale quanto oscura figura di quella galassia stilistica, qui in compagnia del fenomenale contrabbassista norvegese Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (già frequentato con il gruppo The Thing).

Luoghi, persone e immagini vengono evocate e omaggiate fin dai titoli. “Crossing The Bridge” fa riferimento al ponte di Williamsburg dove Sonny Rollins si ritirava ad esercitarsi e a meditare sulla sua arte. McPhee sfodera lo stesso suono robusto, la stessa fantasia ed un enfasi espressiva smussata in favore di un fraseggio secco, contiguo ai territori della libera improvvisazione. “Spiritual Cry” non può non evocare Albert Ayler, le sue urla di rivendicazione così viscerali abbinate ad un senso di spiritualità che creavano un contrasto unico. Qui il sax soprano lavora su un ritornello naive e giocoso, blandito accarezzato e condotto verso esplorazioni timbriche ai limiti della tonalità.

“Blue Coronet” è uno storico jazz club che ci fa respirare l’aria del blues, note lunghe languide e tristi, il sax contralto vibrante il contrabbasso caldo e pastoso che raccontano di amori impossibili e di vita quotidiana. Così come “Putnam Central,” locale dove sono passati personaggi come Charlie Parker e Dizzy Gillespie, J.J. Johnson, e brano che rinnova i fasti di quei musicisti esaltandone lo spirito di avventura e la loro continua ricerca del nuovo.

Joe McPhee è straordinariamente efficace sia ai sassofoni che alla pocket-trumpet, profondamente ancorato alla tradizione del blues ed emozionante improvvisatore, per il suo modo unico di coniugare ricerca e cantabilità. Ingebrigt Haker Flaten sfodera l’usuale potente, muscolare sonorità che qui mette al servizio di una cantabilità non sempre esibita in altri contesti e per questo ancor più apprezzabile. Il suo walkin’ bass, il timbro scuro e pastoso che riempie lo spazio con la densità di una piccola orchestra sono il complemento ideale al rigore improvvisativo di McPhee.

Point of Departure review by Michael Rosenstein

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – Brooklyn DNA (CF 244)
While Joe McPhee is a masterful ensemble player, I’ve always found his solo and duo recordings especially rewarding, particularly his strikingly strong body of work with bassists. This recording, from 2011, is his second duo release with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and from the first alto blasts it is evident that this one is a winner. Over the course of eight relatively compact improvisations, McPhee and Håker Flaten hone in on a collective sound, navigating their way through pieces which build simple themes into conversational freedom. The CD pays homage to Brooklyn, NY and its jazz history, with titles that give nods to Sonny Rollins, Dewey Redman and Don Cherry, as well as Brooklyn clubs like Putnam Central and The Blue Coronet, settings for historic sessions. These references underpin the work, providing conceptual foundation but never stylistic confinement.

For this session, McPhee leaves aside his tenor sax, switching between alto, soprano, and pocket trumpet – getting a chance to hear so much of his alto playing is a real treat. While not quite as indelibly striking as his deeper horn, his full-throated, crying tone and muscular attack set his sound apart from most alto players. Soprano and pocket trumpet provide effective timbral contrasts as the pieces interleave the three instruments. Håker Flaten is a lyrical bassist and his lithe, darting lines provide a potent countering voice. Throughout, there is a fluid feeling of give and take informed by keen listening. The two know how to prod and propel each other, and just when to drop back to let the other stretch out. The sharp-edged melodic themes carry these pieces, underscoring the two musicians’ distinctive approach to thematic freedom.