Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita


Empty Cage Quartet – Stratostrophic (CF 103)

This West Coast USA-based quartet brings quite a bit to the proverbial table.  With a seamlessly integrated bag of concepts and methodologies, the unit merges staggered unison phrasings, dense layers, and spacious environs to its irrefutably divergent arsenal.  Moreover, trumpeter Kris Tiner and alto saxophonist Jason Mears manage to complexly reengineer the thematic component amid poignant extended note choruses and knotty time signatures.

The musicians alter various flows where they venture into modern mainstream, bop and avant-garde, chamber music.  Thrills a minute as they say!  And in other areas of this album, the artists engage in off-kilter military type progressions via regal horns voicings along with periods of introspection and deep-grooves.  Needless to state, they’re a musically well-versed bunch as surprises come at you on a per track basis.  The quartet also explores the freer side of matters, to round out a wondrously balanced program.

On “The Illusion of Transparency,” bassist Ivan Johnson and drummer Paul Kikuchi delve into some asymmetrical cat and mouse type dialogues.  Then with the album finale titled “Don’t Hesitate to Change Your Mind,” the hornists and rhythmic section generate an ascending climax via glaring horns and soaring movements.  There you have it: one of the finest jazz outings of 2008.  To that end, good things should be on the horizon for this very exciting and strikingly clever outfit.

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