Review: Joe McPhee with Chris Corsano, Evan Parker and Lol Coxhill
(Café Oto, 10 March 2010, day 2 of a 2 day residency, review and pencil drawing by Geoff Winston)
The magic of the first ten minutes – an alto solo by Joe McPhee of true purity – soft-spoken, masterful and accomplished – brought back to mind the blissful Coleman/Haden duet last year at the Royal Festival Hall. ‘Ornette gave me freedom to move in a certain way,’ said McPhee. He searched hesitantly and carefully for his words, all the more surprising from such an articulate musical (or, as he might say ‘muse-ical’) practitioner and campaigner. Coleman’s 80th birthday coincided with McPhee’s stint at Cafe Oto.
McPhee and his co-musicians delivered an intense performance which was both creative and restrained. With Evan Parker ‘s tenor in tow – a collaboration going back to the late 70s – and Lol Coxhill, sitting with head bowed intently, a soprano master – it could have gone anywhere, yet they worked off each other, often in the higher registers, building up almost bird-call like interactions and trills. Earlier, Chris Corsano‘s drumming presented a dense bedrock for McPhee to play against, and his solo spell was a crisp exercise in sonic curiosity.
McPhee picked up his soprano mid-way through the second set, heightening the lyricism of the three saxophones. Then, being a devotee of Don Cherry, he switched to pocket trumpet, allowing him to interject, and punctuate the concentrated sound layers built up by the quartet, and lead the music out through a different door.
It was great to see an appreciative and packed house at Café Oto – the only criticism of this excellent venue, is that in this concert, and others, intrusive sound seeps in – from a TV, possibly, next door. Oto’s management is putting on programming of such high quality that it really needs to get to grips with this, for the sake of the musicians and the audience.