Joe McPhee


Born: November 3, 1939; Miami, FL  
Since his emergence on the creative jazz and new music scene in the late '60s, Joe McPhee has recorded over 40 albums and shown that emotional content and theoretical underpinnings are a thoroughly compatible and important pairing in improvised music. He began on trumpet at age eight and switched to the saxophone in his late twenties, eventually adding pocket trumpet, clarinet, valve trombone, and piano to his repertoire. His first recordings as Read more a leader (including Nation Time, 1970) appeared on his CJR label, co-founded with painter Craig Johnson in 1969. By the mid-'70s the Swiss Hat Hut label was formed to release McPhee's recordings, starting with Black Magic Man (1970) and including the landmark solo recording Tenor (1976). McPhee's earliest recordings were often inspired by the revolutionary movements of the time, but his later endeavors were less driven by politics and more about sonic exploration. In the early '80s, exposure to composer Pauline Oliveros' "deep listening" theories, and his own readings, strengthened his interest in extended techniques. This led to his "Po Music" concept (a "Positive, Possible, Poetic Hypothesis"): a "process of provocation" that can be used to "move from one fixed set of ideas in an attempt to discover new ones." McPhee's application of Po principles to improvisation can be heard on several Hat recordings, including Topology and Oleo/A Future Retrospective. He went on hiatus in the '80s to care for his aging parents and received some long-overdue notice from the U.S. jazz community upon his re-emergence in the '90s. Twenty years after Tenor, Hatology released McPhee's second solo recording (this time on various instruments), As Serious As Your Life. McPhee also began a fruitful relationship with Chicago reedsman Ken Vandermark, resulting in recordings for Okkadisk, and in the late '90s, formed Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen, and recorded for C.I.M.P. ~ Dave Lynch Read less
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