Live review

Joe McPhee with Black Top and Paal Nilssen-Love at Cafe Oto

Joe McPhee on pocket trumpet at Cafe Oto, 2019

Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2019. All Rights Reserved

Joe McPhee with Black Top and Paal Nilssen-Love

(Cafe Oto, 8 May 2019. Words and drawings by Geoff Winston)

When pioneering jazz multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee took up residency at Cafe Oto in May, he played a lively first-time gig with Black Top (Pat Thomas and Orphy Robinson on keyboards and electronics, bolstered by drummer, Paal Nilssen-Love, with whom he’d gigged the previous evening. Before launching in to the main event McPhee thanked the audience and Cafe Oto for supporting this kind of music, ‘which we need more than ever’, and wearing his AC/DC t-shirt hollered, ‘Let’s rock!’ with a cheeky smile on his face.

Paal Nilssen-Love at Cafe Oto, 2019

Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2019. All Rights Reserved


Rock, they certainly did, in a uniquely idiosyncratic way, mixing up jazz with electronics and broadly-rendered improvisation. McPhee evoked the spirits of Albert Ayler in his looser, raw statements and Coltrane when in robust flow on tenor sax, and with high compression intensity gave the pocket trumpet the feel of a small gun, a powerful weapon to confront at your peril!

In some live sketches I tried to capture some of the feel of his intense engagement with each instrument and his heart-on-the-sleeve expressive commitment to which he always remains true.

Thomas and Robinson threw in swerving electronics, corralling ear-bending contrasts of high frequency screeches and humming bass lines tempered with piano runs and dabs of calypso and steel drums homage, while Nilssen-Love demonstrated his versatility as he went with the flow, holding back in contemplative sequences or constructing layered beats to flesh out the improvisational momentum which gave this grouping its powerfully questioning, and occasionally quizzical, musical voice.

Joe McPhee on tenor sax at Cafe Oto, 2019

Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2019. All Rights Reserved

 

Categories: Live review

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