By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Saxophonist Joe McPhee's jazz philosophy can be distilled into three simple sentences uttered during an interview with Webzine Alliance for Improvised Music: "Just do it. Make mistakes. There are no bad notes." Chaos is as acceptable an outcome as control, and the journey is, in itself, the destination.McPhee has been spitting out transcendently chaotic free jazz since the mid-'60s, recording more than 50 records that stab at improvisation from every front. Like his early inspirations Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane and, especially, Albert Ayler, McPhee makes music containing as its structure a simple, wide-open space that he and collaborators -- who have included, over the years, Peter Brotzmann, Pauline Oliveros and Ken Vandermark (their Meeting in Chicago stands as a pinnacle of '90s free improv) -- fill with complicated musical emotion.
At the heart of McPhee's philosophy is a concept he calls "PO Music," derived from the writings of Edward De Bono, whose ideas on lateral thinking are perfectly suited for improvisation. Says McPhee: "Dr. De Bono's concept comes from words like 'positive,' 'possible,' 'poetic,' 'hypothesis.' It involves a kind of thinking in which things are viewed in a positive/possible sense rather than a literal sense. Things may not necessarily be what they appear."
The recently reissued Trinity (Atavistic/Unheard Music), first recorded in 1971, consists of two moody excursions created by McPhee's tenor and soprano saxophone and pocket trumpet, Mike Kull's piano and Harold E. Smith's percussion. The result is at times skronky and blurty, at others ethereal and gentle, and at still others introspective and subdued; you can hear emotions shift among the players, and you can hear the essence of a profound, poetic conversation.
Expect an equally transcendent conversation at the Forum. Joining McPhee will be the guitarist Davey Williams and shakuhachi player Philip Gelb. Williams is a member of the loose collective of downtown NYC musicians who in the '80s redefined New York jazz at the Knitting Factory, and he has worked with some of the best in that scene: Ikue Mori, the late Tom Cora, Jim Staley, Wayne Horvitz and Pippin Barnett (who appeared with Williams in St. Louis in the mid-'90s as part of Curlew). Sonic Youth-heads may know Williams from his work on Thurston Moore's label Ecstatic Peace.
This is a performance with great potential for anyone interested in creative free improvisation.