Ian K. Hughes | San Mateo, CA | 10/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""THE KOLD KAGE" ( 1991 ) is an album of complex and aggressive jazz "fusion" led by (formerly Baltimore based )saxophonist/composer Gary Thomas. Half of the compositions are instrumentals, the other half include rap vocals in their opening and closing sections. This music is certainly the diametric opposite of high-visibility mediocrity such as "smooth jazz": melodic themes of dreadful purpose strike out with Cobra-like angularity, odd note groupings knit together with dissonant synthesized vamp patterns and the powerhouse virtuosity of drummer Dennis Chambers. Thomas' improvisations are inspired (by turns furious sax and delicate flute) while the rest of the band ( aside from Chambers ) is made up of highly skilled musicians, some fairly well known ( Kevin Eubanks and Mulgrew Miller play on few tracks ). A key part of this album's hard edge can be located in the rap "manifestos", strident calls to liberation through cultivation of the mind ( "Intellect" ) and a turning away from the pernicious elements of despair often found in the ghetto ( "Infernal Machine" is an ominous ode of doom with residual rays of hope ). Not all of the elements of "protest" work equally well: the brief closer ( "Kulture Bandits" ) is a propulsive exposition of an accusation frequently leveled against "the man" concerning elements of purported "cultural thievery" ( "...check out the Rock and Roll, you know they stole it!" ).Yet the sheer energy of the music redeems it from being yet another attack on a favored "bete noire". There are, by way of structural balance, interesting contrasts to the "edginess" mentioned above. Thomas' sensitive flute work is essayed in both the beautiful "Peace of the Korridor" and the odd gait of a haunting tune titled "Beyond the Fall of Night". And in listening to elaborate instrumentals such as "Gate of Faces" and "The Divide", one does not wonder why a renowned musician like John McLaughlin would rave about "THE KOLD KAGE" (in fact, Thomas and Chambers joined McLaughlin's "Heart of Things" group in 1997-98).It is very hard for this reviewer to find a clear precedent for this hard-driving music: "THE KOLD KAGE" is certainly far removed for the museum-piece politeness of much "neoclassical" bebop yet it is also distant from avant-garde jazz. The hip-hop elements are so naturally wedded to several of the tunes that it doesn't seem fitting to label the album "crossover". In the end, it is of course a tribute to the creativity of Gary Thomas that his music is so original: on the basis of this album, he is a force to be reckoned with."
Kole Kage Unleashes
Buzz Miller | Los Angeles, Ca. | 07/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For more than ten years I've been following Gary Thomas and just about everyone of his cd's is a keeper. Two of his best compositions to date are on this cd. "The Divide" and "Gate of Faces". I play this cd a lot since I bought it eight years ago. Guitarist Paul Bollanbeck is full of fire and imagination. Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums are two of the best out there. They definetly got it going on. If you like jazz that goes places and takes chances, you must check this one out. I've heard the future of jazz, and his name is Gary Thomas. A ground breaking performer."