Saxophone and trumpet improviser Joe McPhee steps into a sonic abyss with sound organizer Graham Lambkin | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Saxophone and trumpet improviser Joe McPhee steps into a sonic abyss with sound organizer Graham Lambkin 

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click to enlarge Joe McPhee and Graham Lambkin

Joe McPhee and Graham Lambkin

Steve Louie

John Snyder lays downs gnarly, surging, needling analog synthesizer tones alongside multihorn player Joe McPhee on The Willisau Concert, a 1975 concert recording originally released by Hat Hut and recently reissued by Chicago’s Corbett vs. Dempsey. The album, which also features the explosive drumming of South African Makaya Ntshoko, is a typically quizzical affair for McPhee, who’s built a career moving in and out of jazz orthodoxy while letting his curiosity and experimental impulses guide him. British sound artist Graham Lambkin has cited Snyder’s synthesizer sound as an inspiration for his old band the Shadow Ring, but despite that affinity Lambkin and McPhee would hardly seem logical collaborators—which could be exactly why they’ve hit it off. Lambkin moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, in the late 90s and eventually became friends with McPhee, a lifelong resident. By then Lambkin had started developing a kind of experimental musique concrete that left no potential sound source untouched; on his recordings he meticulously arranges field recordings, low-key spoken word, conversations, musical interludes, found sound, and more into puzzling but consistently gripping anti-narratives that force the listener to impose his or her own meaning. His 2016 album Community (ErstSolo) layers in some passing musical passages, played by musicians like cellist Judith Hamman and violinists Troy Schafer and Sean McCann, but even those moments register as just another event or element ordered by Lambkin. In late 2015 Lambkin released Chance Meeting (Kye), an edition of 50 CDRs that collected a disorienting world of sounds, dialogue, and disjointed narrative assembled with McPhee (who’s credited with chimes, whistle, and synthesizer, while Lambkin uses whistle, tape, and “other objects”); most of the time I find it hard to know what the hell is happening, even when the two artists are lightheartedly conversing. But that air of mystery allows the listener’s imagination to fill in the blanks within a very deliberate flow of sonic events. I recently asked McPhee what Chicagoans could expect from the duo’s first local performance, and after chuckling he promised that it would involve “frogs, highways, and subways.”   v

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