Houston TX, 28 June 2002
In continuation of the growing list of stellar performers who have
appeared in Houston under the auspices of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation,
Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval, and Jay Rosen, collectively known as
Trio X, made a deep impression at this early summer concert at Diverse
Works, an acoustically friendly venue in the warehouse district
of downtown Houston. McPhee was in town all week working with aspiring
young students at MECA, the inner-city school dedicated to providing
a foundation in the arts and improvised music. This public concert
was the culmination of his Houston itinerary that had included a
performance with the students the previous day.
is a romantic. He is compassionate, feeling, and loving, and all
these emotions come through when he picks up any one of his many
horns. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and his feelings leap from
his instrument and are transmitted directly into the heart of the
listener. His music is inspired, personal, and highly original, but
that is not to say it is docile or tranquil. With Trio X, McPhee
does experiment with tender ballads such as "Try a Little Tenderness" and an
occasional spiritual similar to material used with his Bluette project.
On this night, he mixed his attack, developing gripping solos of heartfelt
beauty and also taking the music to astounding levels of rousing intensity.
Trio X is a true collective, and the igniting vibrations from Duval
and Rosen spurred McPhee.
inspiring to watch Duval play the bass. He is able to make the instrument
speak in whispers or to shout with gale-force strength. In all cases,
his improvisations are constructed with extreme complexity and astounding
intricacy. Magical music is the result of every endeavor. Duval combined
arco and pizzicato techniques to eke sounds from the bass that would
seem improbable, such as when he inserted a drumstick between the
strings and bowed with intensity to establish aural splendor. He
was not pleased with his instrument on this trip. His bass had not
made the trip with him, but this did not prevent him from converting
the borrowed bass into a messenger of deep, probing sounds that became
the spirit of the concert. He intuitively harvested the right sequences
that folded so naturally into the trio's music.
sat in the middle and was an astute listener of the vibrations flying
around him. The concert was totally acoustic, which challenged Rosen
to adopt softer tactics and to use subtleties to enhance the mystique.
On a few occasions, he was able to expound in more dominant terms,
but his call on this set was to shade and color the music in keeping
with its depth of passion. Rosen used small percussion tools and ringing
bell tones to complement the sounds. At one point, he adopted the
brushes exclusively and added an enormous amount of ambiance and texture
to the performance. You could see the strained tension in his face
as he responded to what was happening. However, when the music elevated
to levels of forcefulness, he generated the propelling wind to push
Trio X held a hushed crowd in the palm of its collective hands
for two full-length sets. When the second set ended, there was a
huge explosion of applause showing sincere respect for these three
artists. It did not stop until an encore reflecting their noted
formula for mixing delicacy and muscle was offered. This concert
was creative improvised music at its apex.