Although the titles of each cut came after the fact, there’s something intensely before the fact about Blue, the first album from Rik Wright’s Fundamental Forces. There are mystical and practical reasons for this. Regarding the former, words will always fall short. The latter, however, we may attribute to the fact many of the tunes on Blue are snippets of melodies and songs that had been floating around for some time. A few tunes saw their genesis in other bands. Others emerged fresh. Wright likens the process to a writer refining a book: were it not for publishing, we might never finalize anything. Thankfully, we have one version of this ever-evolving music on disc for posterity.
Unlike artists who record at most a few takes of each track, for Blue Wright panned through six hours of material until the album’s 42 minutes of gold revealed themselves. This required Wright to abandon all of his preconceptions. Uncaring of what might be considered jazz or rock, he simply wrote his music (the album consists entirely of originals) and allowed it to grow. None of this would be possible, of course, without the fine support of his cohorts. Multi-instrumentalist James DeJoie, a Seattle underground fixture known for his baritone playing, opts here for a broader palette of clarinets, alto sax, and flute. Bassist Geoff Harper and drummer-percussionist Greg Campbell form a rhythm section as loose as it is tight, giving the band just the kick it needs.
Each tune was written with specific reeds in mind, and DeJoie is more than up to the challenge of switching things up. Whether it’s the helix of bass clarinet spun on “Nonchalant” or the altoism of “Miss Thing,” he adapts with ease. The latter tune, an anthemic juggernaut that closes out the set, also boasts a tripping beat from the back end. There’s a roughhewn beauty to this tune, the bluesy tannins of which linger on the palate. Furthermore, it reaches a fever pitch to which the narrative has been building all along. DeJoie changes things yet again by way of flute in a beautifully realized intro to “Parting Ways,” which redirects the album’s flow like a rock in a Japanese garden before the rhythm section shuffles in with a melodic procession in tow.
Ultimately, however, it’s Wright who holds it all together with his mellifluous tone. “Mood Ring,” for instance, fronts the album’s strongest material by way of introducing us to Wright’s haunting lyricism. “Butterfly Effect” is another prime vehicle for the guitarist, who, in keeping with this title, evokes a ripple effect via a touch of reverb.
Immersing yourself in Blue, it’s easy to feel the poetry of Wright’s arrangements. Each musician lays a different verse, contributing to a narrative greater than the sum of its parts. As a unit the band works like the hand that holds the pen: each finger brings its distinct curl, allowing the ink to flow as it will, one stroke at a time.