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Rik Wright

A graph of Rik Wright’s influences would read like a wave, running a gamut from jazz to rock and back again. As a guitarist he has taken on influences-often subconsciously-as varied as Andy Summers of The Police and John Abercrombie. Compositionally speaking, Wright hangs with a different crowd altogether, mingling instead with the spirits of Mingus, Monk, and Miles. Of this alliterative trio, Miles has been a decidedly conscious influence in terms of process. And in fact, as becomes obvious once you acclimate to its flow, Wright’s improvising strikes more of an affinity with horn players than guitarists. As a relatively intervallic, melodic player he prefers his wheat brewed, not shredded.

Growing up with Jeff Beck on one shoulder and Jim Hall on the other, Wright bears the mark of a generation that burned bridges between genres. His latest recordings, Blue in 2013 and Red in 2014, build new bridges in their place. Together, they mark the first time in a decades-long career that he has made music purely for its own sake. And for good reason. Several years ago, Wright suffered an injury that stopped him from gigging altogether. He realized that if he were ever going to get back into the game, then it would have to be on his terms and his alone. He was inspired to write fearlessly. In that interim, came the assembly of Rik Wright’s Fundamental Forces. a stunning collective of like-minded musicians that boldly follow him into often beautiful and at times haunting soundscapes.

Fundamental Forces has since become the primary stage for its leader’s compositions, taking his sound to a deeper and, yes, more fundamental level. Fundamental, too, are the tunes themselves. Blending forward thinking arrangements with a core groove that listeners can tap their toe to, the music allures at every turn. That allure propelled Blue to #21 on the CMJ Jazz radio charts. Wright has stepped outside of himself. He has gotten out of his own way to let the music speak for itself.