Boxholder Records has recently released a work called SYMPATHY by trio, Raphe Malik on B-flat and C trumpets, Joe McPhee on soprano sax and pocket trumpet, and Donald Robinson on drums. The recording is a tribute to Malik’s mother, Theresa, who passed away in September, 2003.
Pathos is a word seldom spoken or perhaps even thought about except in a high-brow analysis of the arts. Pathos is a Greek word that means more than can possibly be defined. In the arts, the meaning is laden with the expression of emotion. As it should be outside of the arts as well. Even though this recording pertains to a specific focus, the music reaches beyond its obvious relationship to the present world. The music is some of the most clear-cut, absolute, vibrant, & technically superb that I have heard in a long while. It is more revealing of itself every time I listen.
Opening up with the softest and most tender of approaches using mallets on the toms, Robinson leads the way into an exquisite Malik trumpet fanfare that introduces an endearing melodic set of phrasings from McPhee’s soprano sax. Thereafter, the entire recording evolves with layers, counterpoints, repeated and imitated patterns, distinct single instrument lines, ostinatos, vibratos, the horns’ valving in conversations from one to another and then coming together in unisons. The horns possess a great clarity of tone and certainty in their direction. Surprisingly, an undeniable comfort extends from the quietly squeezed-out high pitches to sometimes frantic dancing notes, played in solos, duos or within the trio.
The drums, Robinson plays completely responsively to the sax and trumpet. He clicks the cymbals, gently rattles and brushes the snares, and occasionally thumps the bass drum. And the drumming weaves in and out of the horn lines and is totally supportive and wonderfully, respectfully unobtrusive. The color that the drums supplies complements and paints the atmosphere for the horns. The drums appropriately both begin and end the recording, settling the limits, kissing the air hello and good-bye.
The reverence, warmth and dignity conveyed through each musician’s performance offers a marvelous blending of a musical objective.Everything fits.
In this world, feeling deeply is unimaginable until a person is lifted through struggle and suffering into another world that has everything to do with humanity until perhaps it radiates glorious adoration. And so, in this context, this recording is as much about life as it is death.