Empty Cage at Angel City

2015 Angel City Jazz Festival poster by Kio Griffith

2015 Angel City Jazz Festival poster by Kio Griffith

This week the Empty Cage Quartet reconvenes for performances at the Angel City Jazz Festival in Los Angeles (with Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri), Studio Grand in Oakland (with The Lost Trio), and Dagny’s Coffee Co. in Bakersfield. From there we head into the studio to work on material for our next album.

More info on the events page at emptycagequartet.com.

Tin/Bag Southwest Tour Photos

Tin/Bag Southwest Tour 2015

Tin/Bag at UNM Arts Lab, 2013 - photo by Mark Weber
“Exquisite music just flows from these serious cats, flows like the skies & rivers…”
–ABQ poet Mark Weber

For more info visit www.tinbag.net

Spring/Summer Update

Lots of interesting creative projects over the last few months, in addition to a busy teaching semester in Bakersfield and filling in for John Fumo as the Jazz Trumpet instructor at CalArts – which was a whole lot of fun.

In February I had the pleasure of bringing my former teacher and mentor Wadada Leo Smith to Bakersfield College for a public lecture and concert, which is something I’ve wanted to do for many years. It was wonderful to see him interact with the students and the public here, and his solo performance of his own music and reinterpretations of music by Thelonious Monk was beyond great.

Other recent highlights include a couple of Blue Whale gigs with Cathlene Pineda’s quartet and the LA-based new jazz ensemble Slumgum; Vidya Trio in San Francisco at the Center for New Music; three performances in two days with Sacramento guitarist Ross Hammond; and a duo performance with pianist Motoko Honda at Montalvo Arts Center as part of their 75th anniversary Rock the Garden celebration.

Some Recent Highlights

It was a busy few months leading up to the end of the year. The Empty Cage Quartet got together in October after a two-year hiatus for a live recording and several concerts culminating in a fantastic night at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles. In September I had the pleasure of performing at REDCAT with pianist Cathlene Pineda, who put together an impossibly beautiful suite of new compositions based on the poetry of Eloise Klein Healy for the Angel City Jazz Festival. Other recent concerts included collaborations with Thollem McDonas, Charles Sharp, Jeff Schwartz, Vijay Anderson, Chris Schlarb, Tabor Allen, Phillip Greenlief, Motoko Honda, Beth Schenck, G.E. Stinson, Alex Cline, Steuart Liebig, Kio Griffith, and the Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet.

Reaching back further into 2014, there were musical encounters with Jack Wright, Ben Wright, Tatsuya Nakatani, Michael Vlatkovich, Anna Homler, Kyle Burnham, John Fumo, Jeff Kaiser, Daniel Rosenboom, Ted Byrnes, Brian Walsh, John Lindberg, Gilbert Isbin, Scott Walton, Wadada Leo Smith, and quite a few others.

I’m opening this new year with a deep and profound feeling of gratitude for the wonderful and endlessly inspiring friends I’m fortunate to cross musical paths with so often, each one pursuing a life uniquely centered on beauty and creativity, bringing life-affirming music with them wherever they go.

Upcoming in Bako

cathlene pineda quartet 

Cathlene Pineda Quartet

Monday, September 22, 7:30pm
Bakersfield College, SPArC-2, free

LA pianist Cathlene Pineda offers an exclusive preview of a new extended work commissioned for a performance at REDCAT Theater by the Angel City Jazz Festival. With Kris Tiner (trumpet), Dave Tranchina (bass) and Paul Kikuchi (drums). Bakersfield College students Omar Murillo (trombone) and Amanda McCaslin (guitar) will play an opening set featuring standards and original compositions. This concert will take place in the band room (SPArC-2) at the new Simonsen Performing Arts Center at Bakersfield College.


 empty cage quartet 

Empty Cage Quartet

Sunday, October 12, 7pm
Metro Galleries, 1604 19th St, $5

Heralded as one of the most powerful and original new jazz groups to emerge from the American West Coast, the Empty Cage Quartet breaks a two-year hiatus with a concert of brand new music to be featured here and the following night at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles. With saxophonist Jason Mears (NYC), trumpeter Kris Tiner (Bakersfield), bassist Ivan Johnson (LA), and drummer Paul Kikuchi (Seattle). Presented by Epigraph Records.

“The Empty Cage Quartet… is a thoroughly modern and multifaceted 
jazz ensemble that stakes out a singular voice.”
-NPR Music

“Smart, kicking and as natural as a heartbeat… an unaffected, personalized amalgam of the most significant creative (as opposed to political) developments in jazz from the past several years.”


 skeleton wire 

Skeleton Wire + IAHRQ

Sunday, October 26, 8pm
Metro Galleries, 1604 19th St, $5

Skeleton Wire is bay area saxophonist Phillip Greenlief, LA guitarist G.E. Stinson (formerly with Shadowfax), and LA bassist Steuart Liebig (formerly with Les McCann and Julius Hemphill). Their music is a mixture of free improvisation, industrial-strength electronic beats, and ambient textures. Local group the Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet will also perform. Presented by Epigraph Records.


Upcoming: Tiner/Honda/Schenck


June 29 – Berkeley Arts Festival | Berkeley, CA | 8pm | fb

June 30 – Nebraska Mondays @ Luna’s | Sacramento, CA | 7:30pm | fb

July 29 – Oakwood School Guest Artist Series | North Hollywood, CA | 3pm

August 17 – Blue Whale | Los Angeles, CA | 9pm

Date TBA – Dagny’s | Bakersfield, CA

The trio of pianist Motoko Honda, saxophonist Beth Schenck, and trumpeter Kris Tiner performs original compositions and improvisations that explore subtle sonic textures, deeply nuanced lyricism, and a unique take on the idea of “chamber jazz.” Frequent collaborators over the past decade, these three musicians have established wide ranging associations in the jazz and improvised music communities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.


Kris Tiner is a California-based trumpet player, composer, and improviser. His playing has been described as “extraordinarily inventive” in Signal to Noise Magazine, and the LA Weekly claims “Trumpeter Kris Tiner can turn barbed wire to beauty.” His music has been performed on five continents, his 50+ recordings have been enthusiastically reviewed in the international jazz press, and he has been recognized with awards from ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, Chamber Music America, the International Association for Jazz Education, Montalvo Arts Center, and the Kennedy Center. He is a member of the acclaimed Empty Cage Quartet, and he collaborates with New York guitarist Mike Baggetta in the duo Tin/Bag. Tiner performs with the Industrial Jazz Group, Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple, the Los Angeles Trumpet Quartet and the Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet, and has collaborated with Wadada Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, Kraig Grady, Tatsuya Nakatani, Donald Robinson, Nels Cline, Lukas Ligeti, Phillip Greenlief, and Cathlene Pineda. He directs the Jazz Program at Bakersfield College, and is the Trumpet Studio Instructor at CSU, Bakersfield. He is the founder of Epigraph Records, an independent label dedicated to the documentation of new creative music recorded live in Bakersfield.

Beth Schenck is a SF based saxophonist, composer and educator who has worked throughout the United States and abroad. A recent NYC transplant, Beth has performed frequently in the New York downtown scene as a leader and a sidewoman. She has been featured in Andrew D’Angelo’s Big Band and Saxophone Quartet, Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble, and Andrew Durkin’s “Industrial Jazz Group.” She has also had the opportunity to perform with Greg Osby, Henry Threadgill, Ben Street, Jim Black, Larry Koonse, Gerald Cleaver, Becca Stevens, Trevor Dunn, Cory Smythe and many others. As a composer, Beth has been commissioned to write for Saint Ignatius Loyola School in New York City, Oakwood High School in Los Angeles, the Sunset Jazz Festival in Nagasaki, Japan, and the Women’s Work Festival in New York City. In 2010, Beth released her debut record, “What Shock Heard,” which has been described by critics as “frank and beautiful”, with “solos full of artful logic”. It features Bill McHenry, Matt Wrobel, Eivind Opsivk and Jeff Davis.

Motoko Honda is a concert pianist, composer, and sound artist who has created a distinctive sound through her holistic approach to music, and her exceptional sensitivity in relating to other art forms and technologies. Employing a “virtuoso technique paired with her intensely imaginative mind” (Susan Dirende, L.A. Splash Magazine), and with stylistic influences ranging from jazz to Indonesian music to contemporary prepared piano with electronics, Motoko’s compositions and structured improvisations are intended to affect the skin, organs and minds of the listener rather than simple recitations of rhythmic and harmonic themes. Called both a “keyboard alchemist” (Chris Barton, L.A. Times), and the “embodiment of a muse” (Greg Burk, Metaljazz), Motoko’s performances transport audiences on sonic adventures that transcend the boundaries and conventions of contemporary music.