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MTKJ Quartet: Day of the Race

There are times when a pessimist could propose to me, without fear of rebuttal, that jazz sunk everlastingly into the depths of posthistoricism at the precise moment Wynton Marsalis signed his first recording contract. Recently, though, I’ve come across several recordings that bring home an important point: While a generation of neocons-in-training spent the ’90s and early ’00s trying to reinvent the wheel, other, hipper kids filtered out the tired old crap and homed in on the visionary stuff, of which there was no shortage–if you knew where to look.

MTKJ (Jason Mears, saxophones; Kris Tiner, trumpet; Paul Kikuchi, drums; Ivan Johnson, bass) combines contemporary methods like metric modulation, collective improvisation and various types of nontonal composition with traditional principles of swing, groove and blues feeling. Their music’s smart, kicking and as natural as a heartbeat. It’s interesting to find hope for jazz’s future in the hands of a group that doesn’t exactly innovate but instead presents an unaffected, personalized amalgam of the most significant creative (as opposed to political) developments in jazz from the past several years.

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