Red Sky //

Album label: 
Release date: 
Recording location: 
Recorded live in concert at Energimolla, Kongsberg Jazzfestival,
Recording date: 
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Mastering engineer: 
Thomas Hukkelberg
Mixing engineer: 
Thomas Hukkelberg
  • 1. Red Sky (Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight, Red Sky in the Morning, Sailors Warning) (11:22)
  • 2. Till (Remembering Emmett Till) (05:45)
  • 3. Peach Melba (05:03)
  • 4. Iron Man Returns (05:15)
  • 5. Come Sunday (Duke Ellington) (05:46)

"Red Sky comes from folk lore of sailorsill and farmers predicting or forecasting weather. I use it here as a metaphor for looking backward and forward at the saem time, remember the past (lest we be doomed to repeat it) but with an eye to the future. [...]"-Joe McPhee, from the liner notes.

"[...] Nilssen-Love's precision and sense of dramatic contrast can be heard on the title track of the McPhee album - recorded at the 2008 Kongsberg Jazz Festival - Red Sky (inspired by the adage: "red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky in morning, sailor's warning"). He opens with brushes under McPhee's nervous smears on trumpet, and when McPhee switches to tenor Nilssen-Love drops down to hi-hat alone before gradually rolling out over the whole of his kit and forcing ever more energetic lines from the saxophone. On Peach Melba he provides restless bursts of energy, an unsettling backdrop to McPhee's chiaroscuro phrases.

In discussing Iron Man Returns in the liner notes, McPhee name checks the unusual triumvirate of Eric Dolphy, Marvel Comics and Black Sabbath. The first half is a barrage from Nilssen-Love, which gradually subsides as McPhee plays a riff which, to my ear at least, bears no resemblance to Sabbath's Iron Man (which had nothing to do with the superhero) but which does sound a bit like Dolphy. Confused, I decided to abandon the liner notes and just enjoy the music.

McPhee has produced a number of musical tributes and elegies - most notably on the album with drummer Chris Corsano: Scraps and Shadows - and there are more here. Till (Remembering Emmett Till) is a plangent lament on trumpet and then tenor, with repeated funereal cymbal strokes from Nilssen-Love, who briefly accompanies himself and McPhee on drums. Again, an appreciation of the power of a simple gesture.

McPhee's version of Duke Ellington's Come Sunday commemorates the same tragic event as John Coltrane's Alabama, with more nuanced brushwork from Nilssen-Love. As the piece comes to a tender close, McPhee's tenor is reduced to a whisper and barely completed phrases, as if ultimately lost for words in the face of the terrible deaths of four children, incinerated in a church. [...]"-Colin Green, FreeJazzBlog