Glass Cage is yet another ace trio featuring Gary Smith on guitar. Following his Stereo trio, Mass, Powerfield, and the recent Shoji Hano trio, this is another winner. And again Smith has come up with a great name, one that sounds like a prog-rock band and has all kinds of resonances.
The trio consists of Smith on stereo guitar, Hugh Hopper on bass and Shoji Hano on drums. As with the music of those other trios, this was all improvised live in the studio. It is music that stalks the blurred boundaries between rock and free improvisation, a zone that all three of these players are comfortable to inhabit. (And for those who may read too much into a name, the music has few obvious links to Philip Glass or to John Cage.)
Derek Bailey has talked of music that is not free improvisation but is built on the assumption that it exists. This music exemplifies that idea. None of the players here is afraid to employ the language of rock. Smith's playing includes more obvious rock references than at any time since his recording with Rhys Chatham. These references do not supplant his characteristic style, but rather are overlaid, adding another dimension to it. These trio settings always seem to bring out the very best in him. Hano's drumming straddles rock, jazz and improv, his restraint, control and economy being ingredients as important as his power; his uninhibited vocalising - exhilarating but, thankfully, used sparingly - is straight out of rock. Hugh Hopper underpins everything here; his fuzz bass frequently meshes with Smith's guitar to create a maelstrom, but he will also use the simplest of bass figures when the need dictates.