Bob Rusch, the producer of the sequel to IN THE SPIRIT, NO GREATER LOVE, states in the liner notes that this CD is "out-of-concept"; that is to say that it does not use the spiritual/gospel as the trigger for improvisation. Even though NO GREATER LOVE begins with a yet another wonderful McPhee rendition of the traditional "Deep River", Rusch pins the tail on the donkey. What NO GREATER LOVE contains is another group of pieces demonstrating musical excellence by Joe McPhee, Joe Giaradullo, Michael Bisio and Dominic Duval.
Generally, the soprano sax lines flutter like birds on the wing and then settle into tuneful statements or lay down tuneful statements to begin with that lilt with the heaviness of the bass lines which become extremely important on this CD. The latter is an unexpected listening pleasure. The basses do not merely accompany the saxes; they are more integral to the establishment of the musical structure than is normal. They do not simply supply a rhythm section. In this way, the stereotypically lead instruments, the saxes, have that much more opportunity to express ideas that go beyond expected boundaries.
The basses begin the title tune. The sound that emanates from the bowing is powerful and whole. They demand the space that they create. The saxes press notes like the stringed instruments do. This is a means to stretch the capacity of the valved instruments physically, rather than philosophically. The basses lay down the initial structure. The rich soprano sax/bass clarinet combinations take off from what the basses say and then give way to the basses again. It is quite a sweet exchange.
The most lengthy piece on the CD, Strangers in a Strange Land", begins with a bass solo that bursts into flame, dies down and introduces a billowing sax note repetition. The atmosphere is penetrated and the journey begins. Bass clarinet and soprano walk hand in hand for this one for a while. The soprano follows an eerie travel plan. The basses once again predominate in their singularity and even reveal the "tune" that collects the music to close.
Joe Giardullo’s soprano sax tribute to Glenn Spearman presents Giardullo as a strong player in his own right. This piece once again has a strong bass line.
Duval and Bisio develop one long bowing gesture for quite awhile in "Deep Sleep". They move in and out of the territory each has mapped for himself at one point coming to grips with a huge deep moment of contrapuntal contemplation. Coming out of the sleep is light and REM-y, as if the lids of one’s eyes are fluttering near to wakening. Plucking brings the wakefulness to pass in rhythmic patterns. Less heavy touches approach the light. Where together finally the basses are awake.
The two ensemble works that end the CD are sharp, clear and make total musical sense. They both exhibit how deeply inherent the music is in the souls of these musicians. More power to them. Let the talent roll.