The Empty Cage Quartet has been filling the West Coast and elsewhere with good sounds for ten years now. They have a relatively new recording out, a limited edition, self-titled LP (Prefecture 06).
The LP sometimes has an advantage that we used to see purely as a disadvantage, the shorter playing time. Some music gets into our heads easier and more completely in shorter doses. I wouldn't go so far as to say we should return to the 78 and the 2 x 3 minutes format, but any length of music surrounded by the silence of the after-end has a distinct discipline by virtue of time. So the LP clocks in around 40 minutes and must say whatever it does within that time frame.
The Empty Cage Quartet makes new music and one must get into it on its own terms. It has some of the two-horn influences of Miles' Filles de Kilimanjaro and Ornette's The Shape of Jazz to Come, but only in a hereditary sense. Empty Cage music is its own music.
Jason Mears, alto sax and clarinet, Kris Tiner, trumpet, Ivan Johnson, bass, and Paul Kikuchi, drums and percussion define the music personally, improvisationally and compositionally.
There are one and two-horn parts, both written and improvised, that stand out. Paul Kikuchi, like Tony on Filles, sometimes has almost a concerto-like role to play in the music, providing outstandingly inventive figures. Ivan Johnson imaginatively and firmly anchors it all.
Rock-steady, free or swinging, it hangs together with contrasting linear and circular qualities that work together to make something important. But hold on, it goes by in a hurry, each side keeping you riveted with nothing at all extra, just the essence.
ECQ is essential, essentialized and irresistible for those with the ears to hear it. Grab one of these while you can. You'll be glad you did, I think.