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Jason Mears Electric Quintet : Book of Changes: Part 1

Duration: 44:52
Format: Compact Disc, Digital Download
Edition: 300
Release Date: February 2013
Cover Art: Steven Baris

Download & CD, at Bandcamp


  1. The Taming Power of the Great
  2. The Creative
  3. Joyous Lake
  4. Receptive

Jason Mears – Alto saxophone, clarinet, compositions
Jonathan Goldberger – Electric guitar
Angelica Sanchez – Wurlitzer piano
Kevin Farrell – Electric Bass
Harris Eisenstadt – Drums

Recorded by Aaron Nevezie at the Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Mixed and mastered by Bradley Schirmer at White Horse Recording, Brooklyn, NY

New York-based saxophonist and composer Jason Mears presents the debut recording of his Electric Quintet. Abstracted grooves reminiscent of 70’s Miles juxtapose with rich textural passages, all deriving from Mears’ unique notational system. Beautiful playing from some of New York’s finest musicians. Stellar cover art by Steven Baris!

JASON MEARS, from Alaska, is a saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, improviser, and educator who is currently living in New York City. He holds a BFA in Music Education from Boston University and a MFA in African-American Improvisational Music from California Institute of the Arts. Jason has studied with Wadada Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins, Harvey Pittel, Donald Sinta, John Sampen, and Vinny Golia. As well as being a member of the the highly acclaimed Empty Cage Quartet, Jason’s most recent projects include Anthony Braxton’s Trillium E Orchestra, Wadada Leo Smith’s Silver Orchestra, and Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day Octet. He has performed with Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, Anthony Braxton, Frank Gratkowski, Phillip Greenlief, Angelica Sanchez, Leroy Jenkins, Nate Wooley, Ken Filliano, Jeb Bishop, Jason Roebke, Jeff Parker, Mike Pride, Harris Eisenstadt, and Reuben Radding among many others. Jason has recorded on the Clean Feed, Nine Winds, 482, No Business, and pfMENTUM labels.

Stef Gijssels, The Free Jazz Collective
What a delight of an album. The intro unison line of alto, electric piano, electric guitar, bass and drums immediately evolves in cool electric piano vibes with the drums double-timing in full energy. The contrast between cool and fast, composed and improvised, jazz and rock is immediate and powerful. Miles – Bitches Brew version – is here, somewhat in sound, yet more in spirit. This music, though structured and with thematic anchorpoints, is as open as can be. A danger zone for inexperienced travellers, yet not for this crew. We have Jason Mears on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jonathan Goldberger on electric guitar, Angelica Sanchez on Wurlitzer piano, Kevin Farrell on electric bass, and Harris Eisenstadt on drums.

Credit to Mears for this album : the compositions are great, the band well selected, the space he gives them is amazing, as is the end result. Unlike many Miles-inspired music, this band captures the spirit quite well, without going for the technical pyrotechnics on the instruments. Next to the electric piano, Goldberger’s electric guitar sounds like McLaughlin, including the signature lift and sustain to end the arpeggiated phrases, and even if he does show some speedy licks once in a while, the overall sound is restraint, as it is with the rest of the band. The music gets priority, a strange version of highly modern sounds grafted on the 70s’ basis.

Mears himself takes center stage on a long and raw solo on the second track, “The Creative”, when all hell breaks loose after some quiet meandering. “Joyous Lake” is a beautiful composition, with a nice theme on clarinet and aldo, supported by beautiful harmonics on piano, slow and open, full of heart-rending sounds.

“Receptive” starts with electric bass and guitar, creating a menacing intro, full of tension and expectations, and again Goldberger sounds like McLaughlin at his best, emphasising, not showing off, then Mears joins with the piano to set a theme – after five minutes only – then Sanchez takes over and gradually the volume and power grow, without going into overdrive though. The strangest thing is the reduced role Mears gives himself on this piece.

… and Eisenstadt you may wonder? Well, he is just amazing, full of ideas, perfect timing and amazing interactions, knowing when to limit himself to some quiet rumbling or when to move the music to higher levels.

What a band! Not boundary-breaking, but high quality music and high quality playing : a real treat.

Mark Corroto, All About Jazz
Sometimes knowing how the sausage is made persuades you to order a salad.

That is assuredly not the case with Jason Mears’ Electric Quartet set. The liner notes reveal that this music is based on a notation system he developed studying with Wadada Leo Smith, where a performer simultaneously read a composition and improvised. He writes, “there are no bar lines or time signatures, only long and short notes.”

With the caliber of musician he employs in this quintet—Angelica Sanchez (piano), Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Kevin Farrell (bass), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar)—he certainly could have provided a notated score, or for that matter, presented a freely improvised outing.

Mears, a saxophonist who doubles on clarinet, is best known for his work in the Empty Cage Quartet. His direction here was to begin this exploration with a 1970s electric Miles Davis groove and blossom—or perhaps mushroom—from there.

This electric band (Wulitzer piano, bass and guitar) frames the music as Davis’ Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) from the launch of “The Taming Power Of the Great,” with its rocked-out beat. The same goes for the closing “Receptive,” with its spacey, blasé nonchalance. But Mears is not content to recreate the past, he (or is it any player?) redirects each piece, opening new channels, changing pace, and expanding into improvised spaces. Music shifts from groove to open time space music, making for some very adventurous, yet highly accessible music.

Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog
Readers of this blog know that often this is where “electric music” can be found, whether the album is led by a guitarist or not. Today’s disk is a great example. It is the Jason Mears Electric Quintet, a population of heavies, a loosely potent totality. The album is Book of Changes, Part 1 (Prefecture 008).

This is electric avant jazz-rock following in the footsteps of Miles Davis in his psyche-electric stage and then what Wadada Leo Smith did with that. It does not mimic. It does not imitate. It is a step all its own. Jason Mears has worked out a system of notation, without bar lines, charting out long and short notes in a specific sequence, which the players then both play and improvise with at the same time. It’s a technique he’s worked out with the Empty Cage Quartet (I cover some of the disks on the Gapplegate Music Review blog, see link to site on left). The album at hand goes more into the electric zone.

The group is one of an all-star sort, in terms of ability, anyway. Jason plays alto sax and clarinet, Jonathan Goldsberger is on electric guitar, Angelica Sanchez plays electric piano, Kevin Farrell is on electric bass, and Harris Eisenstadt plays drums.

In order for such notation to work, or course, the players must be highly creative, highly skilled in the improvisatory arts. These folks very much are. Mears is a mother, Goldberger can let loose and does, Angelica Sanchez is a new star on keys, as shown in her work with Wadada as well as her own groups, Farrell hits it just right and Eisenstadt is the embodiment of free-rock invention.

There is never a lag point. It just keeps going strong. The realization of the notation is at the highest level of invention. The result is a seamlessness between composition and improvisation.

If you want to know where free rock improv is going, it’s here on this disk! Essential.

Nate Chinen, New York Times
Jason Mears, an adventurous saxophonist originally from Alaska, recently released his debut album, “Book of Changes: Part 1” (Prefecture), evoking the frontier bravura associated with Miles Davis’s early jazz-rock bands. The group that Mr. Mears calls his Electric Quintet has Jonathan Goldberger on guitar, Angelica Sanchez on Wurlitzer electric piano, Kevin Farrell on bass and Harris Eisenstadt on drums.

Book of Changes: Part I Cover