Leo Records has released Undersound II, a recording of Dominic Duval’s Trio, which includes Duval on bass, John Heward on drums, Joe McPhee on both tenor and soprano sax and Malcom Goldstein on violin. This CD is a continuation of Undersound from Leo in 2000.
This recording documents a journey whose destination is unknowable until the music lets the listener know when the potential for peace exists . The saxophone is the protagonist. Its calmness juxtaposed with fury and sporadic drama stays mostly in the forefront in unforgiving sustenance. Nearly the entire first half of the recording presents an overture to the details of the next two short movements.
McPhee’s versatility on the horn is unparalleled. In his process of creating starkly contrasting moods and character changes, he spreads the content of his abilities far and wide. Between valving pitched air and screaming high pitches, establishing a distant resonance and a close kiss with solace in repeated phrases and teases with melody, the sound comes forth under a scrim of decibels with the bass as a guide. The way in which Duval manages to conduct the breadth of loudness with a softness of his approach to the bass strings is quite remarkable; altogether the sound that emanates from the strings is nearly spongy & absorptive rather than reverberating. The delicacy of a solo, which seems to be thoroughly bent pitches comparable with purer tones, musically asks question after question depending on the key in which he plucks the notes. Heward interweaves percussive sounds within the total; he provides more ambiant backbone than "drum playing"; many of his gestures are more accentual & supportive than predominantly rhythmic. The rhythm is actually represented in the abstraction of agitation. The agitation is particularly emphasized when Goldstein rapidly bows high pitches to travel over Duval's slowly bowed deep tones.
I am taken through undulation after undulation where glimmers of peace might settle but never do. I am only taken up again by a distraction of discomfort..... Until, finally, the bass and the saxophone strike a harmony and foretell of a place of rest. There is absolutely nothing that is more relieving than the tenor’s locking into the melody of what is called "Going Home". Within that tune, McPhee extends disjunctively away from the drums and the bass. But the trio reunites to realize its discovery of its musical destination . A dynamic rises to speak the truth of the whole recording, which is more than simply 4 tracks on a CD.
This recording is a portrait of time that has its limits within the music but is in itself limitless in meaning, in indication of direction and in its conclusiveness. This recording gives the listener a sense of belief in momentary resolution as only a transition to the next set of moments. This recording is sheer humbling poetry in its muted grandeur.