Decoy/Joe McPhee - Oto
"In its short life, London's Café Oto has played host to more than its share of memorable gigs by such improvisers as John Tchicai, Marshall Allen and Evan Parker, but surely none more remarkable than the December 2009 meeting of the veteran American saxophonist Joe McPhee and the British trio Decoy: the organist Alexander Hawkins, the double-bassist John Edwards and the drummer Steve Noble. It was a night of unceasing reward from music distinguished by such intensity of spirit and richness of timbre. Hawkins is a young composer and keyboardist with a rapidly growing reputation and a clear interest in working with musicians of diverse backgrounds. His early training as a pipe organist surely encourages him to exploit the full range of textures offered by the Hammond C3 and its accompanying Leslie speaker. John Edwards may well be the busiest musician on the improvising scene, his near-ubiquitous presence an infallible guarantee of vitality and substance; only his noted ability to bring a sagging session to life is not required here. Steve Noble, who is among Edwards' regular partners, provides a fine combination of stealth and swing, of drama and discretion, although the dexterous aplomb with which he negotiated a solo passage for small, untethered cymbals really had to be seen as well as heard. McPhee may be a man of an earlier generation, but he shares their absolute devotion to cliché-free spontaneity. Listening to him working in this unusually stimulating context, and appreciating his eloquence, sensitivity and pronounced gift for timbral variation, it is difficult to understand why he is not spoken of more often in the same breath as some of the more renowned free saxophonists. His ability to sing through the trio's array of pointillist textures, or to launch himself full-tilt into the churning maelstrom, adds a significant element to an already remarkable organism."