When we all got together in March of 1999, it was to make a recording with The Joe McPhee Bluette which would reference the spiritual/soul side of American music. To that aim I think we were very successful and this quartet accomplished that goal. The results can be found and confirmed on In the Spirit (CIMP 199).
Joe McPhee has, since the late ‘60s, produced a substantial body of work; first on CJR Records, the bulk of it on various Hat releases, and, now, on a growing body of CIMP (#s 101, 115, 120, 127, 132, 173, 178, 179, 183, 199) and Cadence Jazz Records (#s 1097, 1105, 1106) issues. He is a long-time veteran of the creative improvised music scene and his recordings offer a good portrait of his art and evolution. When an artist reaches this kind of tenure, I think it becomes more justifiable to work along specific concepts in exposing his work, to see how an artist’s particular style and approach address specific circumstances or subjects. And that was my reason for the concept on In the Spirit.
The recording session went very smoothly and on the first evening the group pulled in wonderful interpretations of “People Get Ready,” Deep River, “God Bless the Child,” “Birmingham Sunday/Come Sunday,” and “Astral Spirits,” while on the next day they added “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” However, this is a group of many talents and abilities and the virtuosity to indulge those abilities. As a result, while we worked on the concept for CIMP 199, there were also extracurricular activities: a bass duo (Deep Sleep) here, an American standard (No Greater Love) there, and so forth. These deviations spaced the original concept and work as a musical sorbet. As the sessions progressed I realized that some of these performances, though not specifically addressing the concept, were in and of themselves exceptional.
By the end of the two days, I really wasn’t sure what we had. I only know that we had satisfied the original intent and that there were some wonderful performances that were not “in the concept” and were also outside the time restraints of a single CD.
After we had sequenced and mastered the originally intended project (CIMP 199), I went back and listened carefully to “the rest.” When I finished, it was evident that there was “enough” for another individual release. The question was, how would it hold together? I did a quick sequencing, made a copy, sent it off to the group and got on to other things.
Reaction – first from Joe and then from Dominic – was fast and overwhelmingly enthusiastic. More than once I heard how invigorating they found the material to be. I waited for three full weeks before readdressing the material. I wanted to hear it as disinterestedly as possible: to approach it fresh and on only its artistic merit.
What you hear is my original sequencing of some wonderful out-of-concept music. There was magic in-house those two days. Hear it.
Robert D. Rusch – April 7, 1999