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Monday, October 08, 2018

Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music @ The Bridge Hotel: Joe McPhee & Chris Corsano Duo - Oct. 7

Joe McPhee (tenor/trumpet); Chris Corsano (drums/objects).
(Review by Lance/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew).
To be truthful, I came to this, the closing gig of the festival, partly as a show of support for organiser Wes Stephenson who has done such a magnificent job of organising the multi-venue/multi-genre event and partly to check out Joe McPhee who, at the start of the festival, had created such a buzz and yet was only second banana in the billing at The Bridge.
Jazz, as in most art forms, is forever pursuing new directions. That quest for change invariably wins a few and loses a few. Last night's sell-out concert by sheer force of numbers came down on the side of the forward-looking element.
I arrived convinced I was going to hate it. But in music, as in life, hate can turn to love and vice-versa.
McPhee looked every inch the archetypal jazzman: pork pie hat, black shirt, black trousers and tenor saxophone at the ready, or so we thought. The only oddment being the red shoes.
No, that wasn't the only oddment, the other was the white trumpet with which he started off the opening piece.
The sound that emerged bore no resemblance to any trumpet sounds I'd ever heard - it was almost as if he was blowing the instrument without a mouthpiece or maybe the mouthpiece without an instrument.
Strange - but not as strange as the noises that erupted when he switched to tenor. It took my ears a while to absorb what was going on. The instrument looked like a tenor saxophone but the wild harmonics, the chords - yes, chords on a saxophone - made the excesses of the latterday Coltrane or Albert Ayler sound like Bud Freeman!
Then it happened! Damascus appeared on the horizon!
Have you ever dated a plain Jane or a boring Basil and looked for an excuse to make an early exit? Everyone has but, sometimes you find those protruding teeth suddenly seem to enhance his/her smile, fat becomes pleasingly plump and, before you know it, you're holding hands at midnight...
Such was the case, metaphorically speaking, at this gig. About quarter of an hour into the first number I stopped thinking saxophone and concentrated, instead, on sound. Sound and excitement were what this was all about. Propelled through the unchartered waters by Corsano and an array of 'objects' that I couldn't see but heard clearly, McPhee took me with him - me and 99 others - on a journey to another world where unconventional is conventional, odd is even and even is odd.
This was tremendous stuff and I wanted more which is the sign of a good anything - always leave them asking for more...
I didn't hang around for the headliners, I didn't want anything to erase the memory of what had gone before.
Photos.
Lance.
PS: Next year's festival will be held on the first weekend in October.

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