On CIMP is a new release from Trio X, which is Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval, and Jay Rosen. The instrumentation for THE SUGAR HILL SUITE is straightforward and simple: McPhee plays tenor saxophone, Duval, the bass, and Rosen, the drums.
The musicians address a narrow window within a broad perspective. The recording as a whole describes a memory of the epitome of the Harlem Renaissance and how musicians came out of that time still longing for a recurrence of the dream of the focal point which was Sugar Hill- --where resided the quintessence of the African-American culture.... one whole world within a geometry of avenues and streets.
The music possesses a substantive subtlety. It is taut and somewhat restrained, even though the fluidity of McPhee’s tenor lines overrides the tightness of the rhythm section. The music is soft even when it is loud. The music grows out of melody into abstraction easily, without fracture.
The periodic grooviness is totally within the realm of the tributes being made. Duval is in complete control of his bass; his fingers dance dryly on the muted strings of his instrument. Rosen plays his drums with a lightness and percussiveness that has become his signature. Duval and Rosen carve out a place, like a transparent membrane, behind McPhee that indispensably supports McPhee’s ostinatos, trills, two-note repetitions, vibratos and melodies, which change character as his mind constructs a mood.
Rosen’s haunting introduction to the title track opens the way and continues as Duval expands the line quietly in an extremely subdued pizzicato. The two are mapping out a duet in which Rosen finally lets go and fires through a solo that raises the bar for McPhee’s multi-tremolodic entry. Duval picks up his bow to echo the nature of McPhee’s glide. The piece is damn serious. No fooling around. The main meal. It is also the turning point of the recording. The most demonstrative of the musicianship of all the members of the Trio. When the close comes, we know we have arrived. We have arrived at a pinnacle. Of music. Of history. And then we are in present time with a whisper of a pluck on a bass string.
And in the present time is the fixture of the modern passed through the sieve of the contemporary: an arrangement of an original by Freddie Hubbard and McPhee’s original reflection of Thelonious Monk.
We have come full circle in the musical journey. When it is time to take a breath, we re-collect peacefully with the Trio & move into the comforts of home. Enlightened & renewed.