Joe McPhee

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Joe McPhee
Joe McPhee at the Empty Bottle in Chicago in 2004.jpg
Joe McPhee at the Empty Bottle, Chicago, November 4, 2004; photo courtesy Seth Tisue
Background information
Born (1939-11-03) November 3, 1939 (age 75)
Miami, Florida
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, critic, educator
Instruments saxophone, trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone
Labels hat Hut, CIMP
Associated acts Trio X
Joe McPhee, mœrs festival 2010

Joe McPhee (born November 3, 1939)[1] is an American jazz multi-instrumentalist born in Miami, Florida, a player of tenor, alto, and soprano saxophone, the trumpet, flugelhorn and valve trombone. McPhee grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, and is most notable for his free jazz work done from the late 1960s to the present day.

Life and career[edit]

McPhee was born in Miami, Florida.[1] He began playing trumpet when he was eight, before learning other instruments. He played in various high school and then military bands before starting his recording career. His first recording came in 1967, when he appeared on the Clifford Thornton album entitled Freedom and Unity. McPhee taught himself saxophone at the age of 32 after experiencing the music of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Ornette Coleman. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, McPhee lectured on jazz music at Vassar College.[1]

In 1975, Werner Uehlinger started the Swiss label Hathut Records with the specific intent of showcasing McPhee's music.[2] In the 1980s, McPhee met Pauline Oliveros, began studying her musical theories, and worked with her Deep Listening Band. He has not yet signed with any major label in his native United States, and was possibly better known throughout Europe than his native country until the 1990s. His 1996 album As Serious As Your Life, which takes its title from the jazz book by Val Wilmer, is "arguably the finest of his solo recordings", according to the AllMusic review.[3]

Jazz musicians with whom McPhee has recorded or performed include Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Jeb Bishop, The Thing, Clifton Hyde, Jérôme Bourdellon, Raymond Boni, and Joe Giardullo. Since 1998, McPhee, Dominic Duval, and Jay Rosen have performed and recorded as Trio X.[4][5] McPhee has also written reviews and commentary for Cadence.[1]

In 2005, McPhee was awarded the Resounding Vision Award by Nameless Sound.

Selected discography[edit]

  • Underground Railroad (CjR, 1969)
  • Nation Time (CjR, 1971)
  • Black Magic Man (HatHut, 1971 [1975])
  • Trinity (CjR, 1972) with Harold E. Smith and Mike Kull
  • Pieces of Light (CjR, 1974) with John Snyder
  • The Willisau Concert (HatHut, 1976) featuring John Snyder and Makaya Ntshoko
  • Tenor (HatHut, 1977)
  • Rotation (HatHut, 1977)
  • Glasses (HatHut, 1977 [1979])
  • Graphics (HatHut, 1978)
  • Variations on a Blue Line / 'Round Midnight (HatHut, 1979)
  • Old Eyes (HatHut, 1980)
  • Tales and Prophecies (HatHut, 1981) with André Jaume
  • Oleo & A Future Retrospective (Hat Hut, 1982 [1993])
  • Visitation (Sackville, 1985) with the Bill Smith Ensemble
  • Songs and Dances (CELP, 1987) with André Jaume and Raymond Boni
  • Élan • Impulse (Adda , 1991) with Daunik Lazro
  • Impressions of Jimmy Giuffre (CELP, 1992)
  • Sweet Freedom - Now What? (HatArt, 1995) with Lisle Ellis and Paul Plimley
  • Common Threads: Live at the Tractor Tavern, Seattle (1995)
  • As Serious As Your Life (1996)
  • Legend Street One (1996)
  • Legend Street Two (1996)
  • Inside Out (CIMP, 1996) with David Prentice
  • McPhee/Parker/Lazro (Vand'Oeuvre, 1996)
  • A Meeting in Chicago (Eighth Day Music, 1997)
  • Specific Gravity (1998)
  • In the Spirit (1999)
  • Grand Marquis (1999)
  • Mister Peabody Goes to Baltimore (2001)
  • Shadow & Light (2002)
  • Red Morocco (2006)
With Roy Campbell, William Parker & Warren Smith
With Jimmy Giuffre and André Jaume
  • River Station (CELP, 1993)
With Clifford Thornton
  • Freedom & Unity (Third World Records, 1967)


  1. ^ a b c d Wynn, Ron (1994), Ron Wynn, ed., All Music Guide to Jazz, M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, p. 454, ISBN 0-87930-308-5 
  2. ^ "Established 1975". HatHutRecords. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  3. ^ Brian Olewnick, review of Joe McPhee, As Serious as Your Life, AllMusic.
  4. ^ Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2008) [1992]. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (9th ed.). New York: Penguin. p. 984. ISBN 978-0-14-103401-0. 
  5. ^ Rusch, Robert D. (1998). The Watermelon Suite (CD insert). Trio X. Redwood, NY: CIMP. CIMP 183. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]