Thursday, June 3, 2010

Empty Cage Quartet and Guests Create A Little Magic

We looked at a recent Empty Cage Quartet CD last February and also covered a couple of very intriguing projects Paul Kikuchi did with some key collaborators in the intervening time between then and now (see earlier posts).

Today we look at another Empty Cage recording and it's another goodie. This time out drummer Kikuchi, bassist Ivan Johnson, reedman Jason Mears and trumpeter Kris Tiner are joined by special guests Aurelien Besnard on clarinets and Patrice Soletti on electric guitar. The resultant Take Care of Floating (Rude Awakening) is a winner in every sense.

Soletti gives the band some rock ambience, a harmonic voice and a tone color that adds much to what goes on. Besnard brings another voice to the ensemble and adds a distinctive solo presence on bass clarinet as well. Mears, Tiner, Besnard and Kikuchi contribute the compositions, which provide well thought-out frameworks for each performance. There are meaty, substantial motives, modern chorale-like horn choirs, loose grooves that do not engage in cliches, and plenty of ensemble parts to bolster and contextualize the soloists.

The music is MODERN, searing at points, intricate at other points, but never harshly bombastic (which of course some modern jazz can be, not that I have a problem with that either). A lot of thought and care went into this music, but also a lot of inspiration and solo presence too. Take Care of Floating for me marks a high-water mark in mid-sized jazz ensemble work of the past five years. Put this one down as one of my favorite this year so far!

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