Joe McPhee (with Ken Vandermark)

Musings of a Bahamian Son: Poems and Other Words by Joe McPhee


Releases May 17th 2024

Preorder HERE

Joe McPhee is one of the great multi-instrumentalists of contemporary improvised music. His instrumental battery has included saxophones, clarinets, valve trombone, pocket trumpet, sound-on-sound tape recorder, and space organ, but another arrow in his quiver is text. McPhee has been writing poems since the 1970s. He occasionally introduces one into performance, as an introduction or afterword to music, and in recent years he's been known to do full-on readings, text only, featuring his inimitable sense of dramatic timing intoned in his rich voice. The poems range from the observational to the political to the surreal. They're composed in rhyme or according to an internal rhythm, sometimes utterly prosaic, sometimes fantastic and flamboyant. A few of them capture the immediacy of improvised music more acutely than any critical writing on the subject, his half-century immersion in the craft of free music having given him a bottomless cup to draw on and his sensitivity to the nuances of language providing a host of palpable metaphors and metonyms, similes and strophes.

The poems are marvels on the page, but they really take flight in McPhee's mouth. In 2021, during a flurry of pandemic-inspired poetic activity, he traveled to Chicago expressly to record a program of his poems. For the studio date, he invited saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark to play duets as interludes between groupings of the poems. Then Vandermark, engineer Alex Inglizian, and the CvsD team sat breathless in the Experimental Sound Studio control room as McPhee proceeded to perform his poetry nonstop and without repetition for nearly two hours. The result is Musings of a Bahamian Son, the first full-length release dedicated to McPhee's writing, with 27 poems interspersed with nine musical interludes and a postlude.

This CD release anticipates the forthcoming McPhee memoir, Straight Up, Without Wings: The Musical Flight of Joe McPhee, written with Mike Faloon, a book that will be published in the fall by CvsD.

  1. Something
  2. Interlude 1
  3. A’s New Day
  4. Violets for Pia
  5. Guitar
  6. Baby, Baby, Baby
  7. Please, Sweet Mistress, Kiss Me Once More Before I Die (for Duke Ellington)
  8. Percussion Bitter Sweet (for Max Roach)
  9. Interlude 2
  10. Hat and Beard (for Eric Dolphy and Thelonious Monk)
  11. Interlude 3
  12. Homeless
  13. Driva Man 2 (dedicated to Oscar Brown Jr.)
  14. A Song for Beggars
  15. Interlude 4
  16. The Last of the Late Great Finger-Wigglers
  17. Long Story Short (for Peter Brötzmann)
  18. Vieux Vin Blanc
  19. The Grand Marquis
  20. Interlude 5
  21. Invocation
  22. Interlude 6
  23. A Meeting in Chicago
  24. I’m Just Saying (for the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet at Journey’s End)
  25. New Chicago Blues
  26. Interlude 7
  27. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lover
  28. Interlude 8
  29. Party Lights
  30. Tree Dancing
  31. Echoes of Memory
  32. Magic Mirror
  33. The Loneliest Woman (for Ornette Coleman)
  34. Interlude 9
  35. Tell Me How Long Has Trane Been Gone (for John Coltrane and James Baldwin)
  36. The Ship with Marigold Sails
  37. Postlude

Joe McPhee, voice and soprano saxophone

Ken Vandermark plays clarinet and bass clarinet on Interludes and Postlude

All words by Joe McPhee

Recorded by Alex Inglizian on October 15, 2021, at Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago. Mastered by Alex Inglizian. Cover photo by Ken Brunton, 1976. CD design by David Khan-Giordano. CD produced by John Corbett.