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Originally recorded to cassette tape (in Zurich, in 1979) this one-sided 180Gm LP restores and remasters this amazing 20 minute solo, a tour-de-force of tenor sax starting from the mouthpiece and bell and working into a fully formed and remarkable journey of method and music.

McPhee, Joe

McPhee, Joe : Zurich 1979 [1-SIDED VINYL + DOWNLOAD CODE] (Astral Spirits)

Label: Astral Spirits    
Released in: USA    

"We are incredibly honored to present Joe McPhee's "Zurich (1979)" LP...this LP features a previously unreleased 19 minute solo tenor sax recording from 1979. Astral Spirits Records was named after the song "Astral Spirits" on Joe McPhee's classic "Trinity" LP so this is a true honor for us. This recording also is quite fitting as it was made directly to cassette tape back in 1979 and now is pressed onto vinyl for the first time ever! The vinyl master/laquer was cut in Austin, TX by Adam Smith (Columbus Discount Records/Necropolis/Unholy Two) on an old 1940's lathe that was quite a beautiful thing to see and hear. The music speaks for itself in true McPhee fashion, from softly blown themes to roars of fortissimo and all places in between. A true joy to listen to McPhee from the late 70's again."-Astral Spirits

"AS labelhead Nate Cross said the following of this release:

"This one is unbelievably special for me. As you may have figured out already, Astral Spirits is named after the McPhee song [of the same name] from his Trinity LP. Since I know Ingebrigt [Haker-Flaten] (living in Austin for some time now) and others who know Joe, I emailed him about doing a release. What you hear on Zurich (1979) was originally recorded directly onto cassette tape (in 1979) so Joe thought it would be a fitting release for AS. After that, Joe kept mentioning how he discovered Albert Ayler's Bells just by the beauty and simplicity of the album design, so I decided I really wanted to make this unique and collectible release. We hand screen-printed covers (designed by Mason McFee, who has done all the designs for AS), got stamps made for the backs of the LPs with the info and thanks (so each LP is hand-stamped as well), and then reached out to another Austin legend, Tim Kerr, who painted a portrait of McPhee specifically for this release which will be included as a poster. (Also, there will be 10 copies of these 250 LPs that will feature unique Tim Kerr paintings on the actual LP jacket - anextra special edition.) It's only a one-sided LP BUT the music is exquisite and needs to be heard regardless of [how it's packaged]. The music was mastered and cut directly to vinyl by Adam Smith (who moved to Austin recently and owns an old 1940s lathe machine ...). The record has a unique sound quality to it ... a bit less polished and a bit more in your face, which I absolutely love. [The making of the record] was a beautiful process to see/hear."

As for the sound behind the story and the handsome packaging:

It was recorded March 12, 1979 in - you guessed it - Zurich. It's comprised of a single nearly-twenty-minute solo simply titled Tenor Solo. And its lament begins with successive "blown" notes - not "overblown", just air through the mouthpiece and reed amplified slightly by the horn's bell. A theme is stated, followed by several repetitions. The variations on the theme commence and McPhee begins to really toy with his dynamics. He drops to a pianissimo and roars to fortissimo without warning, often without even a hint of a bridge between. At just past five minutes, McPhee breaks from the theme to explore several short motifs, delivered staccato with note boundaries articulated extremely well. A minute later, his phrases become more lyrical before the theme is restated in a fiery altissimo. Vibratos follow and fade nicely to a revisited theme, with McPhee "speaking" softly.

An odd bit of serendipity: around the 12:20 mark, someone coughs. It proves to be a strange line of sonic demarcation, as, seconds later, McPhee introduces a concurrent theme in the form of what starts as some funky afrobeat before becoming a full-on "beat-box" of sorts, complete with McPhee climbing a string of notes with high groans on the forebeat. That, and the sound of his lips making physical contact with the reed, makes this movement of the piece seriously percussive.

McPhee climbs out of the movement with a sweet little riff repeated over and over again. Then, with just over two minutes left in the piece, it's like the love of his life walked through the door. Suddenly, he's playing just for "her". He projects and describes their entire life together. Their jobs, their children. Their interests, their fights. Their passions and-

Then, the tape cuts out."-Joel Barela, FreeJazz Blog

"Joe McPhee, born November 3,1939 in Miami, Florida, USA, is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser, conceptualist and theoretician. He began playing the trumpet at age eight, taught by his father, himself a trumpet player. He continued on that instrument through his formative school years and later in a U.S. Army band stationed in Germany, at which time he was introduced to performing traditional jazz. Clifford Thornton's Freedom and Unity, released in 1969 on the Third World label, is the first recording on which he appears as a side man. In 1968, inspired by the music of Albert Ayler, he took up the saxophone and began an active involvement in both acoustic and electronic music.

His first recordings as leader appeared on the CJ Records label, founded in 1969 by painter Craig Johnson. These include Underground Railroad by the Joe McPhee Quartet (1969), Nation Time (1970), Trinity (1971) and Pieces of Light (1974). In 1975, Swiss entrepreneur Werner X. Uehlinger release Black Magic Man by McPhee, on what was to become Hat Hut Records.

In 1981, he met composer, accordionist, performer, and educator Pauline Oliveros, whose theories of "deep listening" strengthened his interests in extended instrumental and electronic techniques. he also discovered Edward de Bono's book Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity, which presents concepts for solving problems by "disrupting an apparent sequence and arriving at the solution from another angle." de Bono's theories inspired McPhee to apply this "sideways thinking" to his own work in creative improvisation, resulting in the concept of "Po Music." McPhee describes "Po Music" as a "process of provocation" (Po is a language indicator to show that provocation is being used) to "move from one fixed set of ideas in an attempt to discover new ones." He concludes, "It is a Positive, Possible, Poetic Hypothesis." The results of this application of Po principles to creative improvisation can be heard on several Hat Art recordings, including Topology, Linear B, and Oleo & a Future Retrospective.

In 1997, McPhee discovered two like-minded improvisers in bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. The trio premiered at the Vision Jazz Festival in 1998 but the concert went unnoticed by the press. McPhee, Duval, and Rosen therefore decided that an apt title for the group would be Trio X. In 2004 he created Survival Unit III with Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang to expand his musical horizons and with a career spanning nearly 50 years and over 100 recordings, he continues to tour internationally, forge new connections while reaching for music's outer limits."

-Joe McPhee Website (

Includes MP3 download code, plus a Joe McPhee "The Key of Free" poster (12" x 15").

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Vinyl Recordings
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Free Improvisation
Joe McPhee
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Solo Artist Recordings
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Product Information:

Includes MP3 download code, plus a Joe McPhee "The Key of Free" poster (12" x 15").

Label: Astral Spirits
Catalog ID: MF102/AS019
Squidco Product Code: 20899

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Recorded live in Zurich, Switzerland on March 12th, 1979.


Joe McPhee-tenor saxophone

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