It's been nearly five decades since Joe McPhee assembled a group of musicians to perform the weekend concerts that would become Nation Time, his second album.
It was December 1970, thirty-one-year-old McPhee was inspired by Amiri Baraka's poem 'It's Nation Time,' and the students at Vassar College didn't know what hit them. 'What time is it?' shouted McPhee. 'Come on, you can do better than that. What time is it?!!' The music on Nation Time came out of a fertile, but little-known creative jazz scene in Poughkeepsie, New York, McPhee's home base.
Two bands were deployed, one with a funky free foundation featuring guitar and organ, the other consisting of a more standard jazz formation, with two drummers and the brilliant Mike Kull at the piano. Across the concert and the next afternoon's audience-less recording session, the band was ignited by McPhee's passion and his gorgeous post-Coltrane / post-Pharoah tenor. On 'Shakey Jake,' they hit a James Brown groove filtered through Archie Shepp, while the sidelong title track is as searching and poignant today as it was during its heyday. Originally released in 1971 on CjR, an imprint started expressly to document McPhee's work, Nation Time has a sense of urgency and inspiration.
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