A philosopher and author, Jim Ryan engaged the saxophone in the 1960s. Meanwhile the artist has carved out a significant presence within the San Francisco Bay Area avant-garde scene. Throughout this two-CD set, Forward Energy: Configurations 2002, Ryan and his musical associates seemingly parallel the uncertainties of life via a sequence of complexly articulated improvisational works. Here, notables such as modern/free jazz drummer Donald Robinson and the fine young bassist Adam Lane, lend their respective wares on several pieces. As a saxophonist, Ryan is a firebrand who possesses a pleasantly maniacal style, consisting of jagged bursts amid verbose exchanges with his musical cohorts. The performers interweave neurotic phraseology and odd-metered rhythmic structures with a collective thirst for exploration. At times, they might appear to be on a search and destroy mission via chatty interactions atop varying levels of momentum.
Ryan is apt to inject bluesy statements and drawling overtones into the grand scheme of things -- as the instrumentalists tend to veer off into duet performances and micro-themes. The onset of Disc Two features trumpeter Eddie Gale's rapid-fire lines. Moreover, the group also fuses a loping blues vamp into a free form extravaganza on the piece titled, "History Lesson." It's all about expressively enacted artistic freedom.