Charles McPherson, “The Journey” from The Journey (2015): Something Else! sneak peek

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In an era where the fast-moving waters of change always threaten to wash away tradition, it’s comforting to find a moment of constancy. Charles McPherson is a stone at the bottom of that river, surrounded by water, but unyielding, immoveable, untouched at his core by the currents of time and fashion.

This title tune from McPherson’s forthcoming album The Journey, due February 17, 2015 via Capri Records, underscores his thrilling fixedness — even as it affords us another opportunity to embrace what made McPherson’s bedrock influences matter in the first place.

Though best known as a member of Charles Mingus’ band from 1960-72, McPherson is at his foundation an acolyte and proselytizer of the bebop language constructed by Charlie Parker. Not a copycat, though that’s easy enough to convince yourself of, what with their shared horn. But someone whose muse built up from the phonetics, the basic structure, we’ve come to associate with Bird.

That’s the magic, and the enduring mystery, here. “The Journey” doesn’t attempt any sleight of hand, doesn’t get cute. At the same time, it’s also never boring.

This is four and a half minutes or so of straight-ahead jazz, performed with the deceptively convoluted simplicity that speaks to mid-century masters. Expressive, but not over-emotive; passionate, but not desultory, Charles McPherson knows enough about the rules to break them with finesse — and enough about music to make it all brand new, no matter the depth of his musical roots system.

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