1 3rio Suite (Burton,
Total Time: 39:39
Recorded October 27, 2007 and November 6 & 7, 2007 at MPI Studio, NYC
Eric McPherson drums
Producer: Eric McPherson, Luke Kaven
Available Mar. 2008
Historians and lovers of art recognize the importance of a creative center, where out of a peculiar complex of person, place, and circumstance emerges an institution that nurtures artistic creations of lasting value. In a delicate balance, knowledge from the past is taken together with new ideas and synthesized into strong new works. In the chain of transmission, from one generation to the next over time, there is a kind of evolutionary continuum, a continuum that is punctuated by the emergence of centers of creativity.
If you want to know where the music is likely going to happen, seek out the source. Smalls in the 1990s under Mitch Borden was a creative center of special note, partly because of Mitch Borden, but in large part because his club arrived during a seismic shift in New York’s jazz community, a sociopolitical change in the wake of the overturning of the city’s 60-year old racist cabaret laws, that was little noticed but keenly felt. The law restricted the appearance of brass and drums and/or the appearance of more than three musicians to only those clubs possessing a prohibitively expensive and intentionally hard-to-obtain cabaret license. Musicians were similarly required to carry cabaret cards, and were often hounded by police. Many jazz giants such as Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker had their cards revoked and were unable to perform legally in New York at the peak of their careers. In retrospect, it seems more plainly evident that the laws drove jazz underground in New York in some large part. When the laws were overturned, we saw a steady transmigration of largely unknown major talents emerging to perform at a multitude of newly-legal jazz clubs, which stood as testimony to earlier scarcity by contrast. Smalls in the 1990s was a fertile ground in which emerging musicians young and old could freely associate musically and develop ambitious works together. This was of course a model for this label, and we seek out music accordingly wherever it might be.
The subject of this recording, Eric McPherson, is not only an extraordinary musician, but is also partly responsible for one of the beautiful among the small institutions, a developing creative center in the far West Village, deep in the basement catacombs of the Westbeth Artist Community, called the MPI Studio. This recording is very much a product of that place and tied up with its history.
The words Multi-Percussion Instrumentalist supply the initials for the MPI Studio. The term reportedly comes via Freddie Waits, who performed together in the Roach’s M’BOOM project and used the term to describe what he did. Originally, the Westbeth space was Freddie Waits’ studio space. After his untimely passing in 1988, the space passed into the hands of his young son Nasheet. Nasheet, already on his way to being a formidable drum talent, shared use of the space with fellow drum prodigy and childhood friend Eric McPherson. In the late 1990s they were joined by soundman Glen Forrest, who over time developed a recording facility just right for musical experimentation, contributing much of his own sweat and gear in the process. In the last few years, MPI Studio has turned into a busy place for rehearsal and recording. It has also been an important workshop environment for McPherson, Waits, and their musical cohorts.
Eric McPherson’s potential was recognized by the time he made it to LaGuardia High School in the late 1980s, enough for him to be ultimately accepted into Jackie McLean’s program at University of Hartford whereafter he was to become the drummer in McLean’s band for the next fifteen years, recording with him first in 1992, and playing with him until his very last performance before his passing in 2006. McPherson was featured in Andrew Hill’s trio for several years until his passing, appearing on Hill’s award-winning last CD Timelines (Down Beat Magazine’s Album Of The Year for 2006). McPherson has also recorded with Mark Turner, Jason Lindner, Luis Perdomo, Avishai Cohen, Jimmy Greene, James Hurt, Myron Walden, and with long-time associate Abraham Burton who is also featured here.
McPherson’s talents are immediately obvious. He has a level of skill that gives him the facility to travel anywhere, from anywhere, in time, no matter how difficult the move. He’s always listening hard and has heart and soul engaged, and that is reflected in an extraordinary musicality. He’s very articulate, and the dynamics have just the right expressive weight. He can create a small world in there, and summon up the one-man multi-percussion orchestra when he needs to. But he’s never showing off; he can just go wherever the situation calls for.
His musical cohorts are well matched and they know each other well. Abraham Burton and McPherson have been playing music together since childhood, and Burton’s solid tone and powerful blowing carries just the feeling that McPherson wants. Two amazing bassists convey real gut feeling with virtuosity. They even pair up on “Misako” and “De Javu Monk” (sic). John Hebert played with McPherson in Andrew Hill’s group and in Fred Hersch’s group, and he’s well known for accompanying top names. Dezron Douglas studied with Jackie McLean and Steve Davis in Hartford, and is rapidly distinguishing himself now as one of the top new talents. Pianist David Bryant has been playing with both McPherson and Douglas in Steve Davis’ group. He’s got a beautiful touch, and should be heard more. Very tasty Fender Rhodes playing from Shimrit Shoshan on “The Collective Expression” rounds out the bunch.
McPherson pays tribute with this volume to the generation before him. The tune “The Collective Expression” is in tribute to its composer, McPherson’s mentor, the late Jackie McLean. “De Javu Monk” (sic) is from Richard Davis, who is also McPherson’s godfather and a source of inspiration to him. “Black Pearl” is a personal tribute to Eric’s late mother with spoken eulogy. In the succession from one generation to the next, the future appears to be in very capable hands with Eric McPherson.
The producer would like to thank Tom Currier, Marcy Granata, Debbie Millman,
Jeffrey Brown, and Lana Bortolot for their gracious assistance in making
this production possible.