Thanks to continual touring, saxophonist Jack Wright has been dubbed "the Johnny Appleseed of free improvisation." I've seen and heard Wright several times in recent years and have had the pleasure of being at once absolutely thrilled and confounded by his music.

Wright is one of the living treasures of free improvisation. Ranging from what most people would call "melodic" to atomized slivers of sound, this music is inherently risky, demanding instant invention and an openness to all sounds that few live performers ever attain. Unlike other genres, free improvisation keeps the basic elements of music--tempo, timbre, melody, rhythm, form, and duration--in perpetual flux, changing imperceptibly or mutating abruptly or vanishing altogether.

Few if any fiscal rewards await artists who make this kind of music. For Wright, the chief reward is freedom. "I am hooked on a certain sense I get," states Wright, "either performing or in sessions, that at that moment I can do whatever I want. It sounds simplistic, until you realize that there is nothing I can do to create the conditions for this; I can only receive it as a gift. The truth is, I am allowing myself this freedom, and sense encouragement from my partners; sometimes we feel it together. At that moment I am not trying to do anything right, I am unafraid, but also not bold, not fighting to do something I have been prevented from. And so things appear to me to play that seem like I have always wanted to play but have not dared, not even imagined." CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI

Jack Wright performs Sat Jan 24 (Polestar Music Gallery, 1412 18th Ave at E Union St, 329-4224), 8 pm, $7, and Mon Jan 26 (CoCA, 1420 11th Ave, 728-1980), 8:30 pm, donation requested.

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