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Empty Cage Quartet

Duration: 38:25
Format: LP
Edition: 300
Release Date: October 2012
Cover Art: Allen Glass

Download & LP at Bandcamp


  1. oblige the oblivious
  2. bubbler
  3. peace
  4. presence that time diminishes
  5. taming power of the great
  6. joyous lake
  7. avoid the obvious

Kris Tiner – trumpet and compositions
Jason Mears – saxophone, clarinet, and compositions
Ivan Johnson – doublebass
Paul Kikuchi – drums

Prefecture Music is happy to announce the release of prefecture006, a limited edition LP from the Empty Cage Quartet.  Well seasoned after 10 years of playing together and 5 previous studio albums, these seven Tiner/Mears compositions showcase some of the ECQ’s most abstract and hard driving work to date.

Group Bio:
The Empty Cage Quartet has been consistently praised as one of the most powerful and original new jazz groups to emerge from the American West Coast. For over a decade they have explored new ways to integrate a diverse mix of musical influences, from traditional forms to contemporary experimental practices. The result is a continually evolving, multidimensional approach to jazz and new music performance, improvisational acuity, and compositional craft that Amazing Sounds Magazine has described as an “urban folk music of the future.”


Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review
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.

Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz
The sixth album of West Coast Empty Cage Quartet features this unique, hard -riving outfit in its most abstract mode to date. During the last decade, the quartet focused on exploring new ways of integrating diverse influences into an original, creative blend—from modern forms of jazz improvisation to contemporary experimental practices.

This self-titled, limited edition LP is no different. The seven compositions, all by trumpeter Kris Tiner and reed player Jason Mears, are smart, multilayered and do not decipher easily. The quartet interplay is intimate, sharp and precise as it always been. And the quartet has a distinct, personal voice that transcends its various influences.

All compositions stress the quartert’s exceptional dynamic range. The opening “Oblige the Obvious” is anything but obvious. Tiner and Mears attempt to push into different poles, while drummer Paul Kikuchi and bassist Ivan Johnson’s rolling rhythmic patterns collide with their flights. “Bubble” continues the same dynamic between Tiner and Mears but in a denser, less rhythmic setting. The lyrical “Peace” sound as a somber prayer, where all members of the quartet explore personal tones that would accommodate that noble wish.

The abstract “Presence that Time Diminishes” and “Joyous Lake” are contemplative, chamber sonic explorations. Spare and reserved interplay evolves thoughtfully, emphasizing the importance of elements of space and silence. Both compositions are an exercise in connecting different, often unrelated and non-linear, colors, sonic utterances and dynamics into one cohesive palette of sounds. Only on the muscular “Taming Power of the Great” and playful “Avoid the Obvious” does the quartet present itself in a more conventional, modern jazz mode.

Creative, multifaceted and inspiring.

Pedro Cesar Baes, Otro Jazz
Good records are contemplated from the cover. Photo of Allen D. Glass, looks familiar, I can easily see the demons that have haunted me all my life. In the pandemonium of improvised music and new sounds emerging Empty Cage Quartet is at ringside.

The California band is definitely one of the best expressions of free music that emerged in the last ten years. In addition, the quartet did well to celebrate its first decade with the publication of a limited edition eponymous LP (300 copies). The album, which incidentally trumpeter Kris Tiner had the grace to send it to me signed, painted to be the cornerstone in the career of the Empty Cage Quartet. The songs are dense, slow and aggressive too, who would say, magnified memories. And the music of this LP has a wonderful effect: It makes the events of our lives magnify. Yes, the stubborn memory traps that only music can put free-Sorry to be so blunt, but free music is like football: No one can go to two teams. You either believe in it or not believe in anything. -

Returning to the ten years of the Empty Cage Quartet, the idea of publishing new material for the celebration was much better than publishing a compilation selected. Empty Cage Quartet has much to say. In the last song of the album, Avoid the Obvious, metals and sore scratchy sound on a rhythm that makes murmur, is there anyone who does not enjoy listening to a piece like this?Let’s face it! Live thinking that there will always be new music to discover is exciting, knowing that there will always be a new sound within each disk, the threshold of which we have not yet dared to cross, is a good reason to live.

Ken Shimamoto, The Stash Dauber
Speaking of minimalism, Seattle-based drummer Paul Kikuchi has done a lot of work with electro-acoustic ensembles, specializing in spatial performances. But the self-titled LP from the decade-old Empty Cage Quartet — their sixth release — finds him in a more traditional jazz setting, in the company of trumpeter Kris Tiner, reedman Jason Mears, and bassist Ivan Johnson. Tiner and Mears provide the structures that serve as Empty Cage’s jumping off point. In places, their unisons and contrapuntal lines recall early Ornette Coleman ballads or the duets Eric Dolphy played with Mingus and Richard Davis, but all the musicians work together like spontaneous composers to realize their creative visions. The recording captures the resonance of each instrument beautifully, and the pressing is immaculate. (How appropriate that this fits on my shelf right between Ellington and Eno.)

- Philip Coombs, The Free Jazz Collective
The imagery of an empty cage. Unless you are looking at a new one in a pet store, there was once something alive in there. A bird perhaps, maybe a large cat, or a chimpanzee to pick something a little closer to home. Of course, there is always a positive, more uplifting way of looking at it. Was there a jailbreak, a run to freedom leaving an antiquated symbol of repression? These were just some of the thoughts running through my head as the ‘Empty Cage Quartet’ were running after them.

This recording celebrates their tenth year as a group and all their years together realizes itself in various incarnations of telekinesis. Little did I know the ride I was in for.

This is thoughtful music, thought out music, and ultimately realized music. The recording begins with promise, (‘Oblige the Oblivious’) a promise of a happy, albeit slightly off putting soul quite happy to be singing in a cage. Oh, the sweet sounds of when you think you are correct. The soul soon leaves the tenant (‘Peace’) and begins what can only be described as a downward descent until it nearly reaches rock bottom (‘Taming Power of the Great’).

This quartet feels right and even better for the listener if the album can be listened to in one sitting, (multiple times if the ability is there to do so) and is brought to you with skill and precision by Kris Tiner (trumpet), Jason Mears ( reeds), Paul Kikuchi (percussion) and Ivan Johnson (bass).

‘Joyous Lake’ haunts as it takes a 9 minute introspective look through the bars of the cage where claws or paws or fingers once held. It is at times as stark as the album’s artwork. It begins with a flutter of sound searching for a footing. Horns ring out. An emotional bowing of the bass and a tentative tap on the drum kit set up the final fall until the tension breaks and leads the listener into ‘Avoid the Obvious’ thus bringing the album full circle by revisiting some of the themes and sensibilities of the recording’s opener.

Even though split up into tracks, this recording works as a single piece of composed and free music, both suspenseful and uplifting, both creative and destructive. You may even feel a little better than you did at the beginning of the record, I did.

- Le Son du Arisli
L’Empty Cage Quartet « confectionne un jazz soutenu parcouru de dissonances, répétitions et entrelacs spécieux », écrivions-nous dans l’évocation d’Hello The Damage!Dans un même état d’esprit, le groupe enregistrait plus récemment une quarantaine de minutes que Prefecture Music édite aujourd’hui sous le nom du groupe : Empty Cage Quartet.

De leurs habitudes, Kris Tiner, Jason Mears, Ivan Johnson et Paul Kikuchi, font sept nouveautés qui profitent d’un bel usage des retournements : unissons, répétitions de motifs, encombrements des instruments à vents, tensions commandées par la contrebasse et la batterie, brin de soul dépêché au chevet d’un impétueux jazz de chambre. Dans sa course – digne d’intérêt – c’est en pugiliste essoufflé que le quartette brille encore davantage : Oblige the Oblivious et Peace propageant partout leur mesure.