This LA-based quartet's first collection on Vinny Golia's Nine Winds Label presents an assured and adventurous group equally unafraid of free flight and swing. Jason Mears on reeds and Kris Tiner on trumpets blow an exciting and informed front line over the taut Paul Kikuchi/Ivan Johnson rhythm section.
A post bop arrangement takes "Like That, She's Gone" through its changes with a rock-steady toe-tapping rhythm section. Tiner blows a sweetheart solo, tickling the melody with spooling variations and playful phrasing. Johnson takes a timekeeping break to yank the neck a capella, then reconnects the groove for Mears. He lingers easy on alto before riding the tempo and joining Tiner for fireworks.
Kikuchi portrays a metallic wind chime to open "And So It Goes," the start of a short suite. Tiner muted and Mears play a mysterious arrangement that leaves Mears overblown. Part two, "Function," continues the mystery but with Tiner's very vocal horn. "Fish Face" completes the work, with Mears blowing big and raw, and Johnson and Kikuchi scrambling underneath. Tiner joins the rough and tumble trio, Mears drops out, and the rhythm section turns focused and fast.
A second suite commences with "Nuts and Gum, Together at Last!" The mechanical motif creates a framework for Tiner's lively excursion. Mears irons out the quirky theme, and improvises an intimate duet with Tiner. He continues his musings with Johnson and Kikuchi. The trio keeps it loose with Mears enthusiastically searching and discovering fresh melodic veins to mine.
The suite concludes with "Mearsyshmearsy," initially a warm Tiner monologue with minimal cymbal and bass. Mears goes solo on clarinet, then Johnson introduces a solid bass line with Kikuchi keeping it simple on cymbals and skins. Tiner expands the bluesy elements at which Mears hinted. He goes downtown and Mears brings back the alto for one last conversation with Tiner.
Making Room for Spaces will satisfy tastes across the improvised music spectrum with its disciplined grooves and freeform blowouts.
Personnel: Jason Mears, alto sax, clarinet; Kris Tiner, trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Kikuchi, drumset, percussion; Ivan Johnson, double bass.