Even with commitments across the West Coast musical spectrum, the members of MTKJ managed to reunite for this, their second recording for Vinny Golia's Nine Winds label and fourth overall. Day of the Race
delivers an exciting and fresh collection of performances that show a great band getting better. Their balance of subtlety and pyrotechnics centers around compositions as interesting as the dynamic flights they inspire. Paul Kikuchi's rainbow of rhythm, Ivan Johnson's velvety, nuanced bass, Kris Tiner's range of expression on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Jason Mears' imaginative reed virtuosity make this quartet one of the best working groups today.
The quartet swarms over "Swim Swim Swim, Eat Eat Eat," Mears blowing a disciplined circuitous route that resolves in duet with Tiner. Tiner plays hot blues, with Johnson supplying cool counterpoint, on "Sweet Nut Stomp." Mears tears through involuted variations, ending in dialogue with Tiner. Johnson muses softly to open "The Fewest Heartbeats," Kikuchi joining to fill the holes in the sparse theme. Tiner and Mears cut loose bringing the band to full force.
Mears' "Attack of the Eye People" runs on Johnson's suspenseful bass line, with Tiner flaming on trumpet. A heated exchange with Mears precedes Johnson's ticklish variations. "Golianation" finds Mears switching to clarinet as a rigid counterpoint theme bursts open for Tiner to blow warm brass through, followed by Mears' crossfire. On Tiner's swaggering rocker "I Hate Your Teapot," the rhythm section plays a muscular old-time shuffle while Tiner and Mears show what Dixieland on Mars might have sounded like. The horns drop down to staccato support for Johnson's fluid bass thoughts.
Personnel: Jason Mears: alto saxophone, clarinet; Kris Tiner: trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Kikuchi: drums;
Ivan Johnson: bass.