Joe McPhee & Hamid Drake: Emancipation Proclamation: A Real Statement of Freedom
Expanding from the declaration of it's title the first duo recording by the redoubtable Joe McPhee and the pan-percussionary citizen Hamid Drake is music steeped in an emancipatory feel. Here are two men in a celebratory mood communing with and expounding on the African American traditions still reflective of larger global histories. Adding to the artistic imperative of the music is the photo that adorns the disc's tray card of Drake and McPhee in colorful print shirts and shades, the latter wearing a baseball cap with the appropriate mantra "Attitude Is Everything." Taped at Chicago's Empty Bottle where monumental meetings of this caliber almost seem customary it's a union that many followers of creative improvised music have been dreaming about for some time.
The only downside (and it's a truly minor one) is actually reflective of one of the players' most evident strengths- the dynamic range they elicit from their instruments coupled with the way in which they are recorded. During the opening of "Cries and Whispers" Drake takes an extended prefatory solo with palms and fingers that is at times difficult to hear at regular volume settings. Similarly McPhee's breath sounds endemic to his creations later in the piece fall only slightly above the recorded range. As mentioned these flaws are of minor importance considering the depth of music on hand and are easily correctable with a quick turn of the dial.
From the initial drum invocation of the first piece through the mournful vocalized lament of "Hate Crime Cries" a palpable spiritualism saturates the music. McPhee and Drake work out of a wonderful rapport in tandem. Each man is free to move in any direction, but evidencing a shared discipline the music always follows a tractable course. Drake's rhythms are a constantly mutable fount of energy steering from oblique patterns directly into organically infused grooves as on his hoary syncopated solo during the title track. McPhee's horns are equally limber and responsive to the spontaneous shifts in orientation painting a dappled panorama of split tones. Or just as fluidly blowing a gusty Sub-Saharan sirocco from deep within the bell of his trumpet as on "Mother Africa." Drake's hand drumming on this piece suffers some in the transfer to disc, but once he turns to his kit the troubles cease. "God Bless the Child" is given a reading right up there with virtually any of Dolphy's, so tender the clink of glassware can be heard in the background. On "Emancipation Proclamation" the pair trades tender for militant as Drake's martial traps and McPhee's circular blown tenor rise in unified assertion of inalienable musical (read: human) rights.
McPhee and Drake have published their first chapter together, but theirs is a book certain to contain further adventures. Hopefully the tape machines will be on hand to inscribe these future entries and continue the travelogue recounting the improvisatory aspects of the African cultural Diaspora that has been initiated here.Okkadisk on the web: http://www.okkadisk.com
Track Listing: Cries and Whispers; Mother Africa (for Miriam Makeba); God Bless the Child; Emancipation Proclamation; Hate Crime Cries.
Personnel: Joe McPhee: pocket trumpet, tenor saxophone; Hamid Drake: drums, percussion.