Joe McPhee (born November 3, 1939) is an American jazz multi-instrumentalist born in Miami, Florida, a player of tenor, alto, and soprano saxophone, the trumpet, flugelhorn and valve trombone. McPhee grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, and is most notable for his free jazz work done from the late 1960s to the present day.
McPhee was born in Miami, Florida. He began playing trumpet when he was eight, before learning other instruments. He played in various high school and then military bands before starting his recording career. His first recording came in 1967, when he appeared on the Clifford Thornton album entitled Freedom and Unity. McPhee taught himself saxophone at the age of 32 after experiencing the music of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Ornette Coleman. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, McPhee lectured on jazz music at Vassar College.
In 1975, Werner Uehlinger started the Swiss label Hathut Records with the specific intent of showcasing McPhee's music. In the 1980s, McPhee met Pauline Oliveros, began studying her musical theories, and worked with her Deep Listening Band. He has not yet signed with any major label in his native United States, and was possibly better known throughout Europe than his native country until the 1990s. His 1996 album As Serious As Your Life, which takes its title from the jazz book by Val Wilmer, is "arguably the finest of his solo recordings", according to the AllMusic review.
Jazz musicians with whom McPhee has recorded or performed include Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Jeb Bishop, The Thing, Clifton Hyde, Jérôme Bourdellon, Raymond Boni, and Joe Giardullo. Since 1998, McPhee, Dominic Duval, and Jay Rosen have performed and recorded as Trio X. McPhee has also written reviews and commentary for Cadence.
In 2005, McPhee was awarded the Resounding Vision Award by Nameless Sound.