With the release of Green, Seattle-based guitarist and bandleader Rik Wright has reached the highest point of his career thus far. In completing the additive colors trilogy begun by Blue and Red (released 2013 and 2014, respectively), this album takes the unity shared with bandmates James DeJoie (reeds and flute), bassist Geoff Harper, and drummer-percussionist Greg Campbell, to its most intense levels of focus yet. As Fundamental Forces, the uncategorizable quartet continues to not only push the envelope, but also fill that envelope with a truly original songbook—signed, sealed, and delivered to the discerning listener. If Blue introduced the voice and Red gave that voice a stage, then Green is the mind that shapes its every note, signaling a giant cognitive leap into the future of an artist who breaks as many barriers as he brings together.
If there’s one thing you can count on in Rik Wright’s music, it’s a balance of abandon and meticulous control. Enchantingly, this fine line blurs even more for the third round, even as it comes across more boldly than ever. And in the track “Harmonic Tremor,” one can see just how far the band has come in that very regard. This tune follows the compositional formula that works so well for Wright, twining melodic reed work and bright drums around a core groove of guitar and bass, but takes it to unexpected places via DeJoie’s gritty baritonism, Wright’s elastic commentary, and Campbell’s artful shuffling. Such is the band’s commitment to equality, which through the vital contributions of its members forms a distinct whole. One hears it in DeJoie’s acrobatic alto playing (“Contradiction”) and in the lilting flute of his own “Alicia’s Waltz” (the only track of the set not from Wright’s pen). One hears it, too, in the rhythm section’s evocative pacing throughout “Patience” and “Sugar Crash.” Regardless of which musician you focus on, every contribution is more lucid than the last.
Wright’s music has always been characterized by its immediacy, and on Green, perhaps more than any other album, immediacy gilds the niche that Fundamental Forces has already carved. Be it relatively brief, as the emblematic guitar solo “Sunrise Pixels” and the concluding “Overcast” (in which Wright and DeJoie strengthen the sunbeams of their harmonic relationship), or expansive, as the 10-minute “Wanderous,” the quartet brings full, cinematic charge to its playing. The latter tune is a landmark achievement, unfolding patiently and featuring a beautiful color shift to clarinet. Here, as throughout the album, Wright’s guitar reveals its phases like the moon, taking on the light of a hidden sun and turning it into song. Despite, if not because of, the hefty length of this track, it pushes through space and time with the quiet grace of a comet.
Although this album completes a broader project, it stands on its own feet as an example of a pure love of music making. And from this vantage point, the future looks bright for Wright indeed.