Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)
The mood on “Stratostrophic” is nowhere close to fun. There are no liner notes in the CD package outside of an endorsement from Wadada Leo Smith, but between the track titles and the tense, anxious feel of the music you definitely sense that this band is commenting on current world events.
Hornmen Jason Mears and Kris Tiner are direct players who blow long eloquent phrases against the rumbling underpinnings of Ivan Johnson and Paul Kikuchi. Almost everything is in a march or Blues tempo and the CD is dominated by three long tracks. “Again a Gun” the horns blow in sad and weary unison over a frantic dropkick rhythm before they spiral out blaring solos that sound like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry at half speed. “Doorway Of Escape” sets small, insistent horn laments against ominous electronic percussion, all of which morphs into a bellowing, dark Blues over lurching rhythm. Finally, on “Don’t Hesitate,” the horns cry out in front of soft, ghostly noises before the bass joins in and kicks them up into more elastic and uptempo shouting that leads into Tiner’s and Mears’ most lustrous playing of the set. This is reminiscent of Charles Mingus’ rambunctious political music. It is soulful work infused with rage and passion and shows that the Empty Cage Quartet is the equal of any group out there today.
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