The Mears/Tiner/Kikuchi/Johnson Quartet gathers four of LA’s best young improvisers to create fiery compositions and improvisations. While invoking Ornette or Braxton in passing, the Quartet delights in creating new sounds with a classic configuration. Since the magic of free improv lies in spontaneity, live recordings can capture the spark more vividly than studios works. With several recorded shows to draw from, Music from the 2003 West Coast Tour
delivers the goods.
Often as these four blaze through a performance, a single song might branch into three before the storm subsides. They begin with Tiner’s “Hooka Song.” However complex the composition at hand, MTKJ manages to sound loose. After stating the descending theme, Tiner and Mears discuss its ramifications with Kikuchi and Johnson keeping the rough swing. Tiner solos in trio riding his steady band mates. After the Tiner solo, a pause gives Mears a chance to get Kikuchi’s “Points of Focus” started. Mears plays a lot of alto before Kris returns for some unison playing and then Tiner goes again with much to say.
Tiner’s “Mearsyshmearsy” brings the pace down with Kikuchi on percussion and Johnson reaching around his bass. Mears plays clarinet, and joins Tiner in searching duets before the rhythm sections kicks in creating funk. Tiner and Mears circle each other through the outro.
Primordial sounds introduce Mears’ “Who Knows the Wicker Man?” Extended techniques and slow tempo disappears as the Quartet plays the theme and Tiner takes off. Mears’ “And Skip To” slows the pace again, with Tiner and Mears playing peek-a-boo lines over the changing rhythm. “Points of Focus” returns from a Seattle performance. With the horns playing the theme in heavy duet, Kikuchi moves all over his kit. With Johnson and Kikuchi racing, Mears blows short bursts that gain in intensity. He and Tiner get into it, then Tiner plays solo to introduce “Fish Face.” Atmospheric percussion supports his ruminations.
Mears’ “Inspecktion” completes the medley, with Johnson’s imposing bass line keeping it steady for Kikuchi’s active drumming and Mears’ exploration of tones. A muted Tiner rejoins Mears for few arrangements while the rhythm section boils, then Tiner creates a downpour worthy of Johnson and Kikuchi’s thunder. A swaggering reprise of the “Hooka Song” closes out the collection, this one bluesier and ballsier than the opener.
The MTKJ Quartet burnt put the proof onto disc. Their second release for Little Green Records successfully captures the dynamic cauldron of creativity that is the MTKJ experience.
Personnel: Jason Mears, saxophones and clarinet; Kris Tiner, trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Kikuchi, drumset, percussion; Ivan Johnson, double bass.