Jim Ryan


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For those who appreciate the unfettered, loose spirit of 1960s-style free improvisation, Jim Ryan's group Forward Energy offers a riveting example of the genre. Influences as diverse as Charles Gayle, Albert Ayler, and the unabashedly anarchic Borbetomagus are evident, as largely unstructured blowouts fill more than an hour of recording time. The results are often uplifting and cathartic, though listening to it all at a single sitting is not easy. In the liner notes, Derk Richardson writes of the ironic nature of the "tradition" of free improvisation, which though attracting a small but intense following for decades has never reached what he calls "legitimacy." Another irony, of course, is that this style of blowing was once called the "New Thing," but because of the underground nature of the music it sounds just as revolutionary here as ever, and for the uninitiated it is bound to still sound as though it is "new" and even radical. For those, though, who are familiar with the style Ryan embraces, the results, while good, are unlikely to be startling. Nonetheless, the saxophonist/leader, who is joined on the front line by tenor saxophonist Alicia Mangan, is fully versed with the vocabulary and advances of the pioneers of free improv, and Ryan carries the torch with considerable aplomb. Pianist Scott Looney, bassist Adam Lane, and drummer Marshall Trammell keep the power surging.

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