Jim Ryan's Forward Energy: The Concept (2003)
For all the energy here the group is as in thrall to its own role models as the latest adherents to Miles Davis's pre-fusion quintet of the mid-to late 1960s. In revisiting what's essentially Albert Ayler's music – wasn't this once known amongst marketing types as "ecstatic jazz" for all of five minutes? – Jim Ryan's Forward Energy brings nothing new to it, and the one-dimensional nature of the music makes for taxing listening.
If this kind of thing is to work, then the music has to offer something other than the sound of five musicians with too muuch energy and little direction. In being neither entirely free improvisation or music with any overt structure, we're faced with Trammell treating his drums as an adversary that only understands the language of battering, Looney having little appreciation for the dynamics of the piano, and the group as a whole apparently suffering from a pathological fear of subtlety, interplay and silence. Only intensive listening to The Complete Delmark Recordings of Roscoe Mitchell (is this a Mosaic box set yet?) can remedy the situation.
Thus, we're fifteen minutes into The Concept before things settle down, although either Mangan or Ryan persists in playing the same figure they've been playing since minute one for just a little longer. By the twentieth minute, however, the stasis of the first fifteen has been restored, and the sound of a group playing exclusively for each other becomes just a little tiresome.
"Wisteria," by some distance the shortest track on the disc, features Mangan and Ryan in surprisingly animated dialogue before the rest of the band comes in and has the perverse effect of lessening the dynamics of the music.
This branch of free jazz can work just as well as any other, and there are countless examples on record of it doing so. This isn't one of them. None of the musicians present has a readily identifiable voice, and the one-dimensional nature of the music, together with the group's assumption that catharsis makes for worthwhile music-making, makes insttead for music deficient in the very qualities that reward repeated listening.
Track Listing: 1. Oaktown Sunrise 2. The Concept 3. Bird Watchers 4. How Are You? 5. Wisteria
Personnel: Jim Ryan, Alto & Tenor Saxes; Alicia Mangan, Tenor Sax; Scott R. Looney, Piano; Adam Lane, Bass; Marshall Trammell, Drums.