Stratostrophic, the sixth release by the Empty Cage Quartet (ECQ), finds the avant West Coasters full of ideas and limited by nothing. Their omnivorous approach gladly frustrates label taggers while rewarding informed listeners with advanced compositional and improvisational delights. Their continuing association pays off in an acquired looseness that revels in taking chances without losing the links that keep these sonic aerialists flying together. Inside/outside, silly/serious, ECQ's creative central heat liquefies such abstractions into a bold shower of musical sparks.
The set begins with the three-footed "Again A Gun Again A Gun Again A Gun." Drummer Paul Kikuchi and bassist Ivan Johnson create a stumbling rhythm for fiery Kris Tiner's raw trumpet to blaze across. Johnson gets solo time, then saxophonist Jason Mears plays call and response with Tiner, creating structure while Johnson and Kikuchi explore. "Old Ladies" features a cubist head swinging off kilter and Tiner solos with answers and wails coming from Mears, both always finding their ways back to the unison lines. The minimalist sound picture "Power of the Great" brings out Mears' clarinet, Tiner's mute and Johnson's bow. Kikuchi busily kicks off "We Are All Tomorrow's Food" and keeps it percolating under the others' laconic take on the theme. Mears catches up on clarinet, blasts past and then reins it in to repeat the theme. Tiner and Mears announce "Steps of the Ordinarily Unordinary" with a twisted toy army fanfare, sort of like Albert Ayler on Christmas morning, picked up by the rhythm section and marched around the tree. The haunting "Aurobindo" wafts like incense, Tiner's flugelhorn enriching the sound. "Through the Doorways of Escape Come the Footsteps of Capture" slowly evolves into a formidable mid-tempo groove that Tiner splatters with trumpetese. Johnson and Kikuchi shift gears for Mears to come aboard rolling octaves and squawks around in his mouth, powerfully sprinting ahead.
With notes by no less a musical sage than Wadada Leo Smith, Stratostrophic checks in on one of jazz's most crucial bands and finds them growing strong.
Track Listing: Again a Gun Again a Gun Again a Gun; Feerdom is on the March; Old Ladies; The Power of the Great; We Are All Tomorrow's Food; Steps of the Ordinarily Unordinary; Aurobindo; Through the Doorways of Escape Come the Footsteps of Capture; Beedie and Bob; The Illusion of Transparency; Don't Hesitate to Change Your Mind.
Personnel: Jason Mears: alto saxophone, clarinet, wood flutes; Kris Tiner: trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Kikuchi: drums, percussion; Ivan Johnson: contrabass.
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After going through Rock 'n Roll, the Beatles and Heavy Metal/Hard Rock phases over the next eight or so years, I finally bought my first jazz album; We're All Together Again for the First Time by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan. I was hooked on jazz, and still am 40+ years later.
I moved from England to the USA in 2002, and founded the Brookfield Jazz Society in 2005.
I became editor of the quarterly IAJRC Journalin 2012. The magazine goes to the worldwide membership of the IAJRC (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors) and many major libraries and educational establishments around the world.
As well as being the editor of the IAJRC Journal, I write about jazz and review CDs, vinyl, DVDs and books on jazz.
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