Joe McPhee Quintet - Common Threads

common threads

The Joe McPhee Quintet

Live at the Tractor Tavern, Seattle

On October 19th, 1995, the date of this concert recording, Don Cherry died. Shock of the news hit me like an earthquake, especially since my opening of this program with the pocket trumpet was a conscious decision directly related to the inspiration of Mr. Cherry. In the Summer of 1963,1 saw Don Cherry at Birdland in New "fork with the Sonny Rollins Quartet. This was a major turning point in my life. From that moment I sought out first a pocket cornet and later the pocket trumpet I use today. For more than 30 years, these have been my totem instruments.

In 1972, I was invited to participate in a workshop and performance of Don Cherry's Relativity Suite with the Jazz Composer's Orchestra. That week long experience helped to form the basis of the musical concepts explored in these performances. Upon listening to a playback of the music we created on the evening of October 19th, 1995,1 can't help feeling that Mr. Cherry passed through and touched us on his journey to forever. Dear, beautiful spirit traveler, thank you for stopping by.

Of the many influences on my life and music, probably the most profound was my father. It was he who started me on my musical journey when I was 8 years old. Because of him, his trumpet and the music he gave me, I have been able to realize my dreams in real time. On November 13, 1995, at age 90, he joined Don Cherry on that journey to forever, no doubt playing some of the sweetest duets ever heard. Red Enchantmentlilies are flowers which filled the front yard of my family home, always in full bloom on Father's Day. This one is for you Dad.

michael's cipher is Michael Bisio's secret message. Between here and Beethoven, analysts have not gotten one step closer to revealing an artist's "secret" (nor will they ever). That secret is the artist's prerogative, perhaps the only one.

I can't say enough in praise of the musicians who created this completely improvised music. They turned an idea into a living, breathing entity born of love and held together by the common threads we all share. Stuart, Loren, Eyvind and Michael, thank you.

Joe McPhee

Poughkeepsie, New York

March 5, 1996

On a cool Seattle October night the inside of the Tractor Tavern had a warm glow and a heady sense of anticipation about it as more and more people began to cram into every available space on night seven of the 1995 Earshot Jazz Festival. The Tractor, known for its adventurous music booking policy and selection of Northwest microbrews on tap, had not seen a crowd such as this for such an event. And, as this recording proves (it's hard to believe this is a live recording made in a tavern) the audience came to listen. What they heard that evening, and what you will hear on this disc, fully justified their rapt attention.

Joe McPhee has traveled to Seattle numerous times and has made a number of friends over the years, including multi-instrumen­talist Stuart Dempster, bassist Michael Bisio and cellist Loren Dempster (Stuart's son), all heard here. Stuart Dempster first performed with McPhee in 1980 at a suburban Seattle church. They had been introduced by a friend of Joe's who was, at the time, a student at the University of Washington, where Stuart teaches. Dempster recalls their meeting fondly: "We hit it off immediately and we have never recovered!"

Loren Dempster is a senior cello major at the University of Washington. While playing various orchestra and chamber music gigs in the Seattle area, he also performs regularly with Seattle's Young Composer Collective, which plays all kinds of new music, including jazz, on a regular basis.

Bassist Michael Bisio is active throughout the Northwest and across North America in a variety of contexts. His recording on the Silkheart label, "In Seattle," has drawn widespread critical praise. Most recently, Bisio has worked with his own quintet, his own bass/drums/saxophone trio, trios fronted by pianists Bob Nell and Wayne Horvitz, and toured as a member of the Charles Gayle Trio. Joe and Mike have been friends for several years and had wanted to perform together for some time. This date was their first opportunity to do so.

This concert also represented the first meeting between McPhee and violinist Eyvind Kang. Although they had not met, Kang's presence on this date bears testimony to their mutual admiration. Kang, currently a member of Bill Frisell's quartet, delayed leaving for a European tour with Frisell in order to play this concert. This resulted in his having to meet Frisell, et al., after a long flight and just prior to their first gig. Obviously, it was important to him to be here.

There was never any question that this concert was an audience success. We now know it was a critical success as well. This year it garnered Best Concert honors in the Earshot Golden Ear Awards, a Seattle-area critics' poll. Note that the category was not for best avant garde or new music concert—it was simply "Best Concert" in the Northwest for 1995.

Friendship, freedom of expression, stellar musicianship, and camaraderie. They all come across loud and clear on this recording. It was a magical evening in person. We are fortunate it was preserved for posterity in clear digital sound. Enjoy it.

Steve Robinson Seattle, Washington, USA