Saxophonists Joe McPhee and John Butcher prep new album subsequent to an obscure desert performance at The Hill

Saxophonists Joe McPhee and John Butcher prep new album subsequent to an obscure desert performance at The Hill

What’s better than two avant-garde musicians of superlative accomplishment choosing to collaborate for a brand new album? Try inserting a mysterious venue into the mix. And I’m not (despite what you might think) talking about the secret mascot sex dungeon that exists several stories below the castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. That dark and suspiciously slippery location gives new meaning to the phrase “happiest place on Earth” — while The Hill of James Magee exudes both mystery and spirituality. A structure/art installation 70 miles east of El Paso, TX. The Hill consists of four shale buildings connected by causeways; and technically it’s still under construction, even though Magee has hosted visitors and art events for years now. Literally, photos are prohibited, there is no electricity, and people can only arrive via shuttle.

McPhee and Butcher naturally had their respective alto sax and tenor sax in tow when they recently visited The Hill to perform, and their new album At The Hill Of James Magee is as much a trademark exploration of acoustic space as it is a showcase of their improvisational talents. The first track comes from battery recordings as the two players exit and enter separate buildings. Tracks 2 through 6 are a mix of solos and duets, while the audience members were seated on the ground below the walkway, and microphones were placed outside of the buildings.

Make a note of this one if you consider unique feels an important musical quality. The album’s out tomorrow, January 18, on Trost Records, and you can buy it here.

Check the track “St. Ida’s Breath (Less Her Neck and Teeth)” below.


At The Hill Of James Magee tracklisting:

01. Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No
02. Mine Shaft
03. Paradise Overcast
04. A Forty Foot Square Room
05. Torcello
06. St. Ida’s Breath (Less Her Neck and Teeth)

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