The EMPTY CAGE QUARTET (formerly MTKJ Quartet) is a Los Angeles-based creative jazz/new music ensemble that has been hailed in the jazz press as "one of the most powerful and appealing jazz units currently active" (–All About Jazz). Formed in 2002, the quartet features saxophonist Jason Mears, trumpeter Kris Tiner, bassist Ivan Johnson and percussionist Paul Kikuchi. Over the course of five albums and a number of lengthy tours the group has explored new ways to integrate a diverse mix of musical influences within a unique modular system of organizing the flow of notated and improvised elements. Their music has consistently been praised as a substantial and original new contribution to jazz on the left coast. Critic Rex Butters of the Jazz Journalists Association selected Day of the Race, their second CD on LA’s legendary Nine Winds label, as one of the top 10 jazz albums of 2005. Their most recent recording is Hello the Damage!, a 2CD live concert released on the pfMENTUM label, of which Signal to Noise magazine claims "the Empty Cage Quartet finds a new way forward for the modern-day free jazz quartet."
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"One of the left coast’s most underexposed treasures."
-Troy Collins, One Final Note
“What a fine young quartet this is... they follow many different musical paths, all the while maintaining a pretty stimulating group voice.”
–Jason Bivins, Cadence Magazine
"One of the most powerful and appealing jazz units currently active."
-Rex Butters, All About Jazz Los Angeles
"This music is a sinuous dance, but one where every move, every exit and entry, every bob and weave, is made with razor-sharp precision... the Empty Cage Quartet finds a new way forward for the modern-day free jazz quartet."
-Nate Dorward, Signal to Noise
"The MTKJ Quartet's music is the shit..."
-Gene Armstrong, Tucson Weekly
"Not your typical background jazz music, this local group is in your face, angular, fresh, and assertively spontaneous."
-Zach Behrens, LAist
-The Santa Fe Reporter