Review of "This is Not a Pipe"
By Bruce Lindsay
October 30, 2014

The title is, presumably, a nod to "Ceci, C'est Ne Pas Une Pipe," the phrase which Rene Magritte wrote on his famous painting La Trahison Des Images. The painting wasn't, of course, a pipe, just a painting of a pipe. This Is Not A Pipe isn't a pipe either--it isn't even a painting of a pipe. So what is it? Alto saxophonist Alexander McCabe and pianist Paul Odeh have the answer--it's a recording of eight tunes, three standards and five originals.

Okay, that's a rather prosaic if factually correct description. More importantly, it's a recording of an alto/piano duo that's full of musical ideas and eminently capable of bringing those ideas to fruition, a duo whose regular weekly gigs have given McCabe and Odeh a deep understanding of each other's playing. The result is a free-flowing exchange that, coupled with the excellent sound quality, feels like a live performance even though it was recorded in McCabe's own studio.

"Friday's Good" is the album's most straightforward tune, a 12-bar blues that barrels along at a fair old pace, Odeh providing a punchy rhythm over which McCabe blows his alto with gusto. At the other extreme, the mid-section of "This Is Not A Pipe" begins as a brief but frenetic exchange, each instrument chasing and being chased in turn.

In between, the duo moves between fast re-interpretations of bop classics (Gigi Gryce's "Minority," full of dynamism and energy), spacious reflection (McCabe's "Penny's Way") and silky, sweet-natured, tunes (Odeh's "Daphne's Song," McCabe's "Miss Maritza"). Whatever the pace, however complex the structures, McCabe and Odeh never sound hurried or tense, a testament to their experience as a duo and their mutual understanding as musicians.



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