Jason Mears: alto saxophone, clarinet, wood flutes
Kris Tiner: trumpet, flugelhorn
Paul Kikuchi: drums, percussion
Ivan Johnson: contrabass
Disc 1: First Set (24:20 / 21:17)
1. Attack of the Eye People (Mears)
Who Are They If We Are Them? (Mears)
The Mactavish Rag (Tiner)
2. And Who Is Not Small (Tiner)
Disc 2: Second Set (42:57)
1. Swan-Neck Deformity (Kikuchi)
The Empty Cage (Mears)
Swim Swim Swim, Eat Eat Eat (Mears)
Recorded live at Café Metropol in Los Angeles, California on Friday, December 30, 2005
Recorded live to two track by Paul Kikuchi
Mastered by David Christensen and Paul Kikuchi
Cover photo and album design: Kio Griffith
Band photos: Allen D. Glass II
Thank you to Kio Griffith, Misato Nagare, Dottie Grossman, David Christensen, Rocco Somazzi, Allen D. Glass II, Jeff Kaiser and Vinny Golia
© 2006 Jason Mears Music, ASCAP and Kris Tiner Music, ASCAP
For more information: www.mtkjquartet.com
When the camera pulls back
on people you care about
because you have followed
their story all season
and you know
what makes them happy
and what hurts them
and you love them
and want to protect them,
that’s your cue to sit back,
let the music take care of them now.
When I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking about The Empty Cage Quartet, but I see a connection. They share a common view, something about expansiveness or maybe a sense of what I can only call “mission.” These guys actually care about us, and want to make us better through their musical example, God help them. It’s a tall order, admittedly, but saxophonist Jason Mears and trumpeter Kris Tiner talk seriously about the band as a positive model for social change, incorporating and expanding upon what they learned under the tutelage of people like Wadada Leo Smith and Vinny Golia.
Mears, Tiner, Kikuchi and Johnson (“The MTKJ;” now “The Empty Cage Quartet”) came together at The California Institute of the Arts, in Southern California, circa 2002. They began playing music that was admittedly “horrible” (Kris Tiner’s word), at first, but which has evolved to a very telepathic kind of communication that transcends historical models of creative new music and almost doesn’t require language in its usual sense. They’re bent on transcending the clichés of “free jazz,” with its historically associated bias toward self-expression at the expense of everything else. They all contribute tunes and are dedicated to finding ways of getting around traditional improvisation and composition, to create music that is “continuous” and spontaneous. At the same time, in their musical explorations, they incorporate and honor the earlier forms they want to transcend. There is, for example, homage to without imitation of the Anthony Braxton and Ornette Coleman quartets.
So they use a system which in effect means that, in performance, any player can cue a composition at any time. For that to work on a level that approaches art requires the ability to almost literally read each other’s minds. Forget about not paying attention. Forget about playing on chord changes. It’s very akin to linking arms and jumping off the proverbial edge-of-the-cliff. It takes enormous mutual trust, acquired through the time-honored method of playing and touring. It is a truism that there’s no substitute for playing together a lot over a period of time in different settings and circumstances. The bonding that emerges from this kind of intensity has created, for these four, a unity that is probably more rock-solid than that of most “real” families.
And that makes them happy. They like it when audiences are touched and even inspired by the music they make together. Drummer Kikuchi tells about a gig in Olympia, WA, when the audience behaved as if they were at a rock show, yelling and “getting into” the show, letting the music take them to new places.
A word about the title of this CD: “Hello the Damage” was the all-too-literal English translation of part of a French review damning the group’s last CD. Anyone familiar with the often hilarious nonsense masquerading as “translation” on the Babelfish web site will sympathize.
This is a band whose musical growth rate has been amazing. They’re dedicated to doing something new, and the strength of their musicianship and vision are collectively and individually impressive enough to make that happen.
I’m going to leave the last word (well, almost) here to Kris Tiner, who, talking about how much he appreciates the work of Thelonious Monk, Charles Ives and Morton Feldman, says, “You can tell they love music.” Amen.
Los Angeles, CA
[Ed. from a reviewer friend: This expression (in french “bonjour les dégâts…”, “damage” is a plural in french, it makes it more spectacular) became famous after is was used in an advertisement against alcohol when driving : “Un verre ça va, trois verres bonjour les dégâts” “One drink is alright, three drinks, hello the damage” : nobody speaks about 2 drinks, the case becomes a hole where reason gets drowned).]
The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet: The Alchemical Mass
The Kaiser/Diaz-Infante Sextet: Suite Solutio
The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet with The Ojai Camerata
Woodwinds: Vinny Golia, Eric Barber, Jason Mears * Trumpet/Flugelhorn: Kris Tiner * Trombone: Michael Vlatkovich
Tuba: Mark Weaver * Bass: Jim Connolly * Prepared Acoustic Guitar: Ernesto Diaz-Infante * Acoustic Piano: Wayne Peet
Percussion: Brad Dutz * Drum Set: Richie West * Jeff Kaiser: Conductor, Flugelhorn
The Ojai Camerata:
Sopranos: Diane Besocke, Candace Delbo, Eleanor Land,
Laura Johnson-Bickford, Lu Setnicka
Altos: Gwen Erickson, Lisa Gordon, Katherine Halsey,
Holly Mitchem, Zoe Pietrycha
Tenors: Carla Aiello, Jaye Hersh, J.B. White
Basses: Dave Farber, Jim Halverson, Kurt Meyer, Bill Wagner
Dr. Wyant Morton, Director
The Alchemical Mass
Conducted by Jeff Kaiser and Dr. Wyant Morton
1. Introitus 10:28
[Eric Barber, Soprano Sax * Vinny Golia, Sopranino Sax]
2. Kyrie 3:00
3. Collecta and Gloria 2:33
[Kris Tiner, Flugelhorn]
4. Epistola and Graduale 1:44
5. Offertorium 9:03
[Jeff Kaiser, Flugelhorn * Jason Mears, Alto Sax]
6. Ave Maria and Commune 7:16
Trumpet/Flugelhorn: Jeff Kaiser * Prepared Acoustic Guitar: Ernesto Diaz-Infante
Trombone: Scot Ray * Bass: Jim Connolly * Percussion: Brad Dutz * Drum Set: Richie West
7. Part I 2:38
8. Part II 1:25
9. Part III 5:06
10. Part IV 5:49
11. Part V 4:19
Total Playing Time 53:21
All compositions and arrangements by Jeff Kaiser * (C)2004 Jeff Kaiser Music, ASCAP
The Alchemical Mass was recorded 4.26.03 at the First United Methodist Church in Ventura, CA
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Wayne Peet
Suite Solutio was recorded 2.25.01 at Zircon Skye in Ojai, CA
Recorded by Jeff Evans * Mixed and mastered by Jeff Kaiser
Photographs by Michael Kelly * Design and layout by Jeff Kaiser
The Alchemical Mass is dedicated to Keith McMullen for his friendship and unending supply of prima materia.
In Stercore Invenitur
“Obscurum Per Obscurius.”
[Explaining the obscure by the more obscure.]
-Anonymous Alchemical Quote
“It is true that alchemy always stood on the verge of heresy and that certain decrees leave no doubt as to the Church’s attitude towards it, but on the other hand it was effectively protected by the obscurity of its symbolism, which could always be explained by harmless allegory…The alchemists ran counter to the Church in preferring to seek through knowledge rather than to find through faith, though as medieval people they never thought of themselves as anything but good Christians…But in reality they were in much the same position as modern man, who prefers immediate personal experience to belief in traditional ideas, or rather has it forced upon him…For this reason there have always been people who, not satisfied with the dominants of conscious life, set forth – under cover and by devious paths, to their destruction or salvation – to seek direct experience of the eternal roots…”
-C.G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy
Nicholas Melchior Cibenensis – chaplain and court astrologer to Ladislaus I (King of Hungary and Bohemia) and then Louis II – wrote the text of The Alchemical Mass between 1490 and 1516. Following the death of Louis II in 1526, Cibenensis fled to Vienna…where Ferdinand I would execute him in 1531. The original text is quite long and has been paraphrased for this composition.
Fundamentum vero artis est corporum solutio quae, non in aquam nubis, sed in aquam mercurialem resolvenda sunt, ex qua generatur verus lapis philosophorum. [The basis of the Art is the dissolution of the bodies…]
Versus: Introitus vitrioli, et salis vitri, aequales partes, dans solutionis testimonium: Gloria patri, et filio, per spiritum sanctum.
Kyrie, fons bonitatis, inspirator sacrae artis, a quo bona cuncta tuis fidelibus procedunt, Eleison.
Christe, Hagie, lapis benedicte artis scientiae qui pro mundi salute inspirasti lumen scientiae, Eleison.
Kyrie, ignis divine, pectora nostra juva, ut pro tua laude pariter sacramenta artis expandere possimus, Eleison.
[Our Lord, fount of goodness, inspirer of the sacred art, from whom all good things come to your faithful, have mercy. Christ, Holy one, blessed stone of the art of the science who for the salvation of the world hast inspired the light of the science, have mercy. Our Lord, divine fire, help our hearts, that we may be able, to your praise, to expand the sacraments of the art, have mercy.]
Deus largitor totius bonitatis, qui maxime in fine temporum; sola tua bonitate et sapientia famulo tuo. N.N. non suis meritis praecedentibus: sed tua ineffabili pietate, et gratia praeveniente, lumen sacrae artis alchemiae inspirasti, praesta quae sumus, ut quod ex tuae maiestatis dono accepit, ad salutem corporis, et animae eius prosit, in ipsoque omnia vitia mortifica, et gratiam virtutis infunde, ut eandem sacram artem solum modo ad laudem, et gloriam nominis tui, et fidei Christianae propagationem, fideliter expendat, per dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Amen.
[May thy servant N.N. practice the sacred Art of alchemy to the glory of God…]
Gloria in excelsis
O altitudo divitiarum sapientiae, et scientiae Dei.
[O profound, wise and knowledgeable God.]
Surge aquilo et veni auster: perfla hortum meum, et fluant aromata illius.
[Arise north wind, and come south wind, blow through my garden and let the aromatical spices flow.]
Salve, O caeli iubar speciosum, mundi lumen radiosum; hic cum luna copularis, sit copula martialis, et Mercurii coniunctio. Ecce res est una, radix una, essentia una…qui est lapis philosophorum. Hic est thesaurus thesaurorum, summa medicina philosophorum, caeleste secretum antiquorum, beatus, qui hoc invenerit.
[Hail beautiful lamp of heaven, shining light of the world! Here art thou united with the moon, here is made the band of Mars and the conjunction of Mercury. And behold it is one thing, one root, one essence…this being the stone of the philosophers. It is the treasure of treasures, the supreme philosophical potion, the divine secret of the ancients. Blessed is he that finds such thing.]
Commune: Regem nostrum venientem ex igne, illuminatum, et diademate coronatum, ipsum honorate in perpetuum. Amen.
[Glory be to our king who comes out of the fire, who is illumined, and crowned with the diadem, for ever and ever. Amen.]
I wish to thank Dr. Wyant Morton and the Ojai Camerata for commissioning this work and The City of Ventura’s Office of Cultural Affairs for a grant to fund The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet. I would also like to thank Adam McLean, author of over 40 books on alchemical and hermetic literature, who took the time out of his busy schedule to send me the complete Latin text of The Alchemical Mass with translation. Visit his web site at: www.levity.com/alchemy/ for text and art on all facets of alchemy.