SONG FOR BEGGARS
This song won’t feed the starving,
nor will conferences on hunger,
with a fortune spent on TALKING.
Nor will it house the homeless,
or quench the thirst of millions
who will die for lack of water,
While the Vampires drink THEIR blood.
song won’t stop our fighting
over bullshit and the finite,
nor keep us all from freezing
when the sun burns through the sky.
Nor will it save our asses
from a fate too cruel to mention.
from our greed and madness,
we have sucked the planet dry.
the weak, the Earth inherits;
and the sick and disillusioned,
and the wounded and the shattered,
and the hopeless without vision,
and the lost without direction,
and the sad!
They will kill the clean young soldiers,
douse the spark of bright tomorrows,
end forever dreams of glory,
lay to rest the brutal lies.
They will satiate their hunger on the bodies of the tourists.
They will satisfy their thirsting on the liquor of their lives.
NO MORE LEADERS!
NO MORE IDOLS!
Joe McPhee, Chicago 1999
After spending years in the peripheral shadows of creative music,
Poughkeepsie’s Joe McPhee is making up for lost time by playing
and recording as often as he can. For years the fan’s main problem
was figuring out how to procure his records — now the decision
is which ones to get? If that’s all you want to get from this review,
you should put this paper down right now and go buy both; each disc
sounds better the more I play it. Zebulon and The Brass
City merit comparison because of their marked similarities and
significant differences. Both are duos, and on both McPhee restricts
himself to a limited sector of his immense instrumental arsenal.
He only plays alto and tenor saxophones on Zebulon, a decision
which spotlights his exceptional capacity to summon complex, emotionally
resonant sounds from both horns. "Kind of a Ballad" fuses somber
yearning with a wistful hint of ribaldry, as if expressing all the
feelings connected to a cherished but distant memory. "Gracie’s
Amazing" is, well, amazing. McPhee’s multiphonics twine around Bisio’s
bowed drones to reach past your nervous system and into your soul,
together imparting visions of infinite sadness and beauty. It invokes
the spirit but not the tune of the hoary gospel standard. The
Brass City, as the name suggests, is a mostly reed-free burg.
On the title suite that take up its first seven tracks McPhee plays
only pocket cornet and valve trombone, while Jeb Bishop plays trombone
throughout. They open with whispers and tea-kettle whistles, then
move on to explore the whole range of brass sonorities, including
those obtained by tapping metal with metal or singing through the
horn as well as by blowing on or through it. Muted brass usually
evokes warmth for me, but The Brass City has a certain measured
distance which I attribute to a major circumstantial difference
between the two records. The Brass City is the fruit of a
fresh pairing, and you can hear the two men seeking to establish
a complimentary relationship as they progress through the record.
They succeed, but you know they’re working at it. On the other hand
McPhee and Bisio have frequently recorded and toured together over
the past three years, so there’s no need to establish attunement
on Zebulon — it’s already there. I could write another entire
review about the ways Bisio and McPhee manifest their collective
sub-and-uberconscious connections, but really, why waste your time
reading? Seek and listen, and listen again, and you will be rewarded.
Meyer, Signal to Noise #12, July/August 1999
leaves his tenor at home for this one and brings out the cornet,
valve-trombone and soprano, the better to deal with Bishop’s
’bone. Track one reminded me of the start of Pink Floyd’s
“One of These Days”, what with both men blowing anything
but notes, and from there — microtones, mutes, chords and mumbling as
quiet as they can get before falling silent — they do whatever they
can to evade whatever you expect. Lovable.
— Richard Cook
The Wire, August 1999
*** (3 stars)
McPhee was to turn his back somewhat on brass after this
astonishing tour de force. Brass duos are pretty rare in the canon,
but this one sounds as straightforward and idiomatic as saxophone and
piano or trumpet and organ, with Bishop providing much of the harmonic
foundation. McPhee includes both soprano saxophone and valve trombone
but concentrates for much of the time on pocket cornet, and tight,
terse sound similar to Don Cherry’s. Most of the record is
taken up with a suite of dance exercises for two horns, but there are
also tributes to Tom Guralnick, and a delightful nod to Roswell Rudd
in the oddly spelt “Rozwell Incident”. Touches of
distortion here and there when the horns are playing forte, but
generally speaking the sound is very good.
— Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, fifth edition