Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval Rules of Engagement Vol. 2

Rules of Engagement Vol. 1 was a set of duets between bassist Dominic Duval and saxophonist Mark Whitecage; for this return match Duval is partnered with veteran saxophonist Joe McPhee. As you’d expect from these longstanding musical partners (together they comprise two-thirds of the hardworking free-jazz ensemble Trio-X) this is a thoroughly sympathetic encounter. The album can be thought of as a loosely organised suite concerning the black American experience: the program includes two improvisations around Ellington’s "Come Sunday,” a reading of the hymn "Amazing Grace,” and "Birmingham Sunday,” a memorial to the four children killed in the 1963 bombing of a black Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama. The same incident inspired Coltrane’s "Alabama,” and it’s no accident that the one "standard” here is the rarely-covered "While My Lady Sleeps,” which Coltrane once cut for Prestige. But despite featuring the odd moment of scrabbling activity, Rules of Engagement has little of Coltrane’s turbulence; it’s quietly thoughtful music, its drama confined to the stark contrast between McPhee’s sombre, plainspoken work on soprano sax and Duval’s slip-sliding bass. (Drimala)