Reviews that mention Ken Vandermark

May 8, 2017

Festival Report

Artacts ‘17
By Ken Waxman

One of Austria’s ski resorts abutting the Alps, St. Johann in Tirol also attracts music fans during the annual artacts Festival. Attendees March 10-12 could be forgiven for being smug. While warm weather limited optimal ski conditions, music fans’ experience was elevated without using chair lifts. Case in point was the DEK trio, which opened the festival at the comfortable rustic Alte Gerberei performance space. While American tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark is wedded to jazz, Austrian drummer Didi Kern is involved with rock and Graz-based pianist Elisabeth Harnik at home in notated music, the resolution of these contradictions gave the performance its bite. Kern’s paddled beat lent veracity to Vandermark’s bar-walking sax honking, while Harnik’s pastoral patterning added emotion to abstract altissimo clarinet twists. Harnik’s attack could be brawny as well, extending her dynamic range by pounding darker phases from the lowest-pitched keys and plucking, rubbing and twanging inner piano strings. Although teaming with discordant touches, DEK’s sound never lost its sense of swing. MORE

January 7, 2017

The DKVThing Trio

Collider
NotTwo MW 930-2

Arashi

Semikujira

Trost TR 146

By Ken Waxman

Seemingly more ubiquitous than a smart phone, Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love appears to be everywhere at once, especially when advanced improvised music is involved. Not only does the percussionist lead his own large unit and smaller aggregations, but he also turns up in groups led by players ranging from Frode Gjerstad to Peter Brötzmann. These recent sessions are particularly notable for a couple of reasons. Semikujira is the newest chapter in the history of an on-again/off-again trio made up of Nilssen-Love, Swedish bassist Johan Berthling and veteran Japanese alto saxophonist/clarinetist Akira Sakata. Ratcheting the intensity level up into the red zone, Collider solders together The Thing, the drummer’s punk-jazz trio with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten with its U.S. counterpoint, the DKV trio of reedist Ken Vandermark, bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Hamid Drake. MORE

November 11, 2016

Mats Gustafsson’ Peace & Fire

At Porgy & Bess
Trost Records TR 140

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury

enough still not to know

SOFA 548

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms

Weekertoft 1-4

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations

Tensegrity

NotTwo MW938-2

Something In The Air: Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity

By Ken Waxman

When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and table-top guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on-and-off for 40 years. MORE

August 1, 2016

Steve Swell

Reflections & Renewals
NotTwo MW 929-2

Michael Jefry Stevens

Brass Tactics

Konnex KCD 5315

Building on your experiences and concentrating on your best attributes are two elements of many people’s persona once they reach their sixth decade. It’s the same with musicians – especially if they’re involved with Jazz and/or improvised music. Attaining or coming close to seven decades of life either side of 60 gives provides many enhanced creativity. Gifted with new maturity, unlike most Pop performers, who fasten on their teens and twenties, creative improvisers continue producing major works, some of which because of honed skills are even better than those produced before. MORE

May 17, 2016

Made to Break

Before the Code
Trost TR 141

KNU!

My Horse Doesn’t Give a Shit

Unit Records UTR 46089

Granularties

Scenes From A Trialogue

Amirani Records AMRN 045

Jean-Marc Foussat & Jean-Luc Petit

…Doù Vient La Lumière!

Fou Records FR-CD 13

Uliben Duo

Shared Memory

Creative Sources CS 327 CD

Something In The Air: Matching Electronic and Acoustic Improvisation

By Ken Waxman
MORE

October 21, 2015

James Falzone/The Renga Ensemble

The Room Is
Allos Documents 010

Like a bee which continuously transfers nectar from one plant to another, Chicago-based composer/clarinetist James Falzone flashes among Jazz, academe, so-called classical, liturgical, World and improvised musics. Illustrative of this approach is the six-piece, all-reeds, Renga Ensemble, which melds compositions and improvisations. Unlike the flying drone not all the textures Falzone conveys are sweet. But the 14 tracks here could serve as textbook example of how to operate a woodwind ensemble. MORE

July 6, 2015

Festival Report

Ring Ring
By Ken Waxman

Try to imagine any North American TV network telecasting a performance by Charles Gayle that’s simultaneously broadcast on radio and via live streaming. Impossible, right? But that’s exactly what took place mid-way through the annual Ring Ring Festival in Belgrade Serbia. Facing an enthusiastic studio audience, Gayle on piano and tenor saxophone plus Polish bassist Ksawery Wojcinski’s subtle string bending and German drummer Klaus Kugel’s aggressive, but un-antagonistic beats played for one hour. This unique programming characterizes Ring Ring (May 19-25) in colorful Belgrade, a city poised between East and West which has been subject to periodic sieges and bombardments since the 14th Century including NATO’s in 1999. Slightly constrained by the studio, Gayle’s tenor saxophone playing was less ferocious than in the past although still characterized by wide vibrato and molten intensity, which was put to good use on a run through of “Ghosts” and during duets with the bassist’s choppy thrusts. A unique pianist, Gayle favored the instrument’s dark register with boogie-woogie allusions, supplemented by his own voicing, which re-harmonized standards like “I’ll Remember You” and “What’s New”, dissected them, eventually revealing the melody, like an X-ray of the skeleton beneath the skin. MORE

April 7, 2015

Label Spotlight

Trost
By Ken Waxman

Vienna’s punk-noise scene of the’90s with underground clubs, fanzines and tape labels did more than advance the career of avant-rock bands. Trost Records was nurtured in that DIY atmosphere so that nearly a quarter-century later it has become a major presence in jazz, releasing discs by the likes of Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark. This happened because a university student/journalist, working part time at one club, plus a couple of friends, felt the city’s musicians needed more exposure. “There were so many great young bands but basically only two labels in Vienna put out punk hardcore or gothic/rock. No one released weird things, noise, mixed genres,” recalls Konstantin Drobil, Trost’s owner. “But I wanted to put out music that touched me in a certain way, no matter what genre.” MORE

March 8, 2015

Krakow Jazz Autumn.

Krakow, Poland
November 19-22, 2014

By Ken Waxman

Slightly mangling a metaphor, the world premiere of The Blue Shroud, a major new composition by British bassist Barry Guy, performed by a specially constituted Blue Shroud Band (BSB), was a main course of the musical banquet presented during Krakow’s Jazz Autumn in November. The three nights preceding it, which showcased all 14 members of the BSB in smaller combinations, previewed the varied spices and condiments that went into concocting the final repast; while Guy’s evening of free-form improvisations with American multi-reedist Ken Vandermark – who wasn’t a band member – the following night, was the perfect digestif following the rich fare of The Blue Shroud. MORE

April 18, 2014

Rara Avis

Mutations/Multicellulars Mutations
den Records dEN 015

Having insinuated himself in many variants of improvised music, mostly with fellow Americans and Northern Europeans, Chicago-based saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark travels south to Italy for new collaborations more involved with electronics.

Now one of Vandermark’s myriad of working groups, Rara Avis is a two reeds-three rhythm aggregation, with many of the tracks here built around the discordant textures sourced from the reel-to-reel tape recorder and instant sound treatments of band member and one-named SEC. The result is ruggedly in-your-face, but faltering at the same time, as if they five hadn’t yet worked out the proper proportions of Jazz, improv, electonica and Rock inflections to create a winning recipe. Together though, they have enough experience and enthusiasm to get the job done. MORE

February 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Dave Rempis
By Ken Waxman

For proof that a committed improviser can build an impressive career outside of NYC, look no further than Chicago saxophonist Dave Rempis. The Massachusetts native, who relocated to the Windy City in ’93, is kept busy touring with his own bands as well as in a variety of other groups. This month he’ll play two rare gigs in the Apple, as part of a completely new configuration with trumpeter Nate Wooley, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and drummer Chris Corsano.

Rempis would often bump into Wooley at European festivals and Chicago gigs, so eventually they decided to combine forces. The trumpeter suggested the other players and the four will record following the dates. The resulting CD may be a joint release on Wooley’s imprint plus Rempis’ six-month-old Aerophonic label. MORE

September 9, 2013

On DVD

Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (PanRec/Trost Records)

By Ken Waxman
Passion is an adjective often associated with German sax avatar Peter Brötzmann, especially as on this DVD, you can see as well as hear the efforts that go into producing his gut-busting sounds. Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011 is a valuable addition to the saxophonist’s cannon for not only focusing on the passion behind his playing and that of the other musicians featured in this 75-minute live concert from an Austrian festival. The DVD also highlights Brötzmann’s compassion as well. Always politically engaged the Wuppertal-based reedist asked four Japanese innovators to play with the Chicago Tentet that night with all proceeds from the gigs going to two organizations aiding the victims of the then recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. MORE

June 18, 2013

Double Tandem

Cement
PNL Records PNL 013

The Resonance Ensemble

What Country is This?

NotTwo MW 885-2

Fire! Orchestra

Exit!

Rune Grammofon RDCD 2138

Lean Left

Live at Café Oto

Unsounds 32U

Something in The Air: Modern Rhythms and New Jazz

By Ken Waxman

As the rhythmic base of jazz has changed over the past half century, adding emphases besides pure swing to improvisation, the role of the percussionist has changed as well. No longer just a time keeper the modern drummer must be conversant with varied beats from many genres of music. This familiarity with other cultures is also why many non-Americans have become prominent. Case in point is Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, who plays with the Euro-American band Lean Left band at the Tranzac on June 15. Nilssen-Love, whose associates range from the most committed electronics dial-twister to free-form veterans is equally proficient laying down a hard rock-like beat as he is trading accents with experimental timbre-shatters. The two extended tracks on Live at Café Oto Unsounds 32U demonstrate not only Nilssen-Love’s cohesive skills amplifying the improvisations of Chicago-based tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark as he does in many other contexts, but shows how both react to the power chords and violent string distortions which characterize the style of guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Ex from Dutch punk band The Ex, who complete this quartet. In spite of Vandermark’s consistent overblowing which encompasses pumping altissimo honks and frenetic slurs; plus the guitarists’ constant crunches, smashes and frails, the drumming never degenerate into monotonous rock music-like banging. Instead, while the backbeat isn’t neglected, auxiliary clips, ruffs, ratamacues and smacks are used by Nilssen-Love to break up the rhythm, with carefully measured pulsations. This strategy is most obvious during the climatic sections of the more-than-37 minute Drevel. With all four Lean Lefters improvising in broken octaves, the narratives shakes to and fro between Vandermark’s collection of emphasized freak notes and dyspeptic stridency and the dual guitarists’ slurred fingering that leads to staccato twangs and jangling strums. Not only is the climax attained with a crescendo of volume and excitement, but the final theme variations are in contrast as stark and minimalist as the earlier ones are noisy. As guitars methodically clank as if reading a post-modern composition, and the clarinet lines emphasize atonal reed bites, intermittent stick strokes and toe-pedal pressure from the drummer concentrates the sound shards into the track’s calm finale. MORE

June 18, 2013

Lean Left

Live at Café Oto
Unsounds 32U

Double Tandem

Cement

PNL Records PNL 013

The Resonance Ensemble

What Country is This?

NotTwo MW 885-2

Fire! Orchestra

Exit!

Rune Grammofon RDCD 2138

Something in The Air: Modern Rhythms and New Jazz

By Ken Waxman

As the rhythmic base of jazz has changed over the past half century, adding emphases besides pure swing to improvisation, the role of the percussionist has changed as well. No longer just a time keeper the modern drummer must be conversant with varied beats from many genres of music. This familiarity with other cultures is also why many non-Americans have become prominent. Case in point is Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, who plays with the Euro-American band Lean Left band at the Tranzac on June 15. Nilssen-Love, whose associates range from the most committed electronics dial-twister to free-form veterans is equally proficient laying down a hard rock-like beat as he is trading accents with experimental timbre-shatters. The two extended tracks on Live at Café Oto Unsounds 32U demonstrate not only Nilssen-Love’s cohesive skills amplifying the improvisations of Chicago-based tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark as he does in many other contexts, but shows how both react to the power chords and violent string distortions which characterize the style of guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Ex from Dutch punk band The Ex, who complete this quartet. In spite of Vandermark’s consistent overblowing which encompasses pumping altissimo honks and frenetic slurs; plus the guitarists’ constant crunches, smashes and frails, the drumming never degenerate into monotonous rock music-like banging. Instead, while the backbeat isn’t neglected, auxiliary clips, ruffs, ratamacues and smacks are used by Nilssen-Love to break up the rhythm, with carefully measured pulsations. This strategy is most obvious during the climatic sections of the more-than-37 minute Drevel. With all four Lean Lefters improvising in broken octaves, the narratives shakes to and fro between Vandermark’s collection of emphasized freak notes and dyspeptic stridency and the dual guitarists’ slurred fingering that leads to staccato twangs and jangling strums. Not only is the climax attained with a crescendo of volume and excitement, but the final theme variations are in contrast as stark and minimalist as the earlier ones are noisy. As guitars methodically clank as if reading a post-modern composition, and the clarinet lines emphasize atonal reed bites, intermittent stick strokes and toe-pedal pressure from the drummer concentrates the sound shards into the track’s calm finale. MORE

February 12, 2013

Sonore

Café Oto/London
Trost TR 108

Hairybones

SnakeLust

Clean Feed 252CD

Peter Brötzmann

Solo +Trio Roma

Victo cd 122/123

Moriyama/Satoh/Brötzmann

Yatagarasu

NotTwo MW 894-2

Something In The Air: Peter Brötzmann’s Triumphant Seventh Decade

By Ken Waxman

Although the witticism that “free jazz keeps you young” has been repeated so often that’s it’s taken on cliché status, there’s enough evidence to give the statement veracity. Many improvisers in their eighties and seventies are still playing with the fire of performers in their twenties. Take German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, who celebrated his 70th birthday and nearly 50 years of recording a couple of years ago. Case in point is Solo +Trio Roma Victo cd 122/123, recorded at 2011’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) in Quebec. Not only does Brötzmann play with unabated intensity for almost 75 minutes, while fronting a bassist and a drummer about half his age on one CD; but on the other inventively plays unaccompanied, without a break, for another hour or so. The multi-reedist still blows with the same caterwauling intensity that characterized Machine Gun, 1968’s Free Jazz classic, plus a balladic sensitivity now spells his go-for-broke expositions. Solo, his overview is relentlessly linear mixing extended staccato cadenzas with passages of sweet romance that momentarily slow the narrative. Climatically the nearly 25-minute Frames of Motion is a pitch-sliding explosion of irregular textures and harsh glissandi that seems thick as stone, yet is malleable enough to squeeze the slightest nuance out of every tune. Slyly, Brötzmann concludes the piece with gargling split tones that gradually amalgamate into I Surrender Dear. Backed by Norwegian percussion Paal Nilssen-Love and Italian electric bassist Massimo Pupillo, Brötzmann adds lip-curling intensity and multiphonic glissandi to the other program. Centrepiece is Music Marries Room to Room that continues for more than 69½ minutes. Besides wounded bull-like cries tempered with spitting glissandi from the saxophonist, the piece includes jet-engine-like drones from the Pupillo as well as shattering ruffs and pounding shuffles from the drummer. Several times, just as it seems the playing can’t get any more ardent, it kicks up another notch. Indefatigable, the saxophonist spins out staccato screams and emphasized renal snorts in equal measures, with his stentorian output encompassing tongue slaps, tongue stops and flutter tonguing. Brief solos showcase Pupillo crunching shards of electronic friction with buzz-saw intensity, while Nilssen-Love exposes drags, paradiddles, rebounds, and smacks, without slowing the beat. There are even lyrical interludes among the overblowing as Brötzmann occasionally brings the proceedings to a halt for a capella sequences, which suggest everything from Taps to Better Git It in your Soul. Finally the broken-octave narrative reaches a point of no-return to wrap up in a circular fashion with yelping reed cries, blunt percussion smacks and dense electronic buzzes. Rapturous applause from the audience spurs the three to go at it again at the same elevated concentration for an additional five minutes. MORE

January 11, 2013

Artist Feature

Agustí Fernández
By Ken Waxman

A complete pianist in every sense of the word who blends exquisite technique with innovative inspiration, Agustí Fernández is arguably Spain’s most accomplished contemporary improviser. This month he’s playing four nights in different configurations at the Stone, a rare series of American dates. “I like all kind of combinations, from duo to big ensembles because each one presents different challenges for a player,” he explains. “Listening, language, instruments, techniques, sound, volume, interplay, etc. will be different in every setting.” MORE

May 31, 2012

Full Blast & Friends

Sketches and Ballads
Trost TR 107

Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer

Live in Wiesbaden

NotTwo MW 877-2

Now that he’s into his eighth decade, German reedist Peter Brötzmann, who plays alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet and tárogató here, is becoming like Ol’ Man River – he just keeps rolling along. This accomplishment would seem less noteworthy if the Wuppertal-based player wasn’t on the road in a variety of formations as often and for as lengthy a time as musicians one-third his age; if he didn’t still play with the same nephritic intonation as he did on his first recording session in 1965; and if his soloing wasn’t still rife with the same intelligent intensity he has demonstrated often during his long career. MORE

December 9, 2010

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo
Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)

Mode Avant 9/12

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds

ESP-Disk 4062

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

June 1, 2010

The Frame Quartet

35 MM
Okka Disk OD 12078

Rempis/Rosaly

Cyrillic

482 Music 482-1064

Matthew Shipp

Nu Bop Live

Rai Trade RTPJ 0015

Connie Crothers-Michel Bisio

Sessions at 475 Kent

Mutable 17537-2

Extended Play: Combos: Ad Hoc and Long Constituted in Toronto

By Ken Waxman

Long-established jazz groups have become as common as pop hits based on Mozart melodies topping the charts – they sometimes exist. But with accomplished improvisers tempted by side projects, bands often reconstitute and sidemen regularly have their own gigs. In most cases, though, this doesn’t affect the music’s quality. MORE

February 11, 2010

Ken Vandermark/Barry Guy/Mark Sanders

Fox Fire
Maya MCD 0901

Testimony to the infinite adaptability of first-class improvisers is this two-CD live set. It captures the first-ever recorded meeting among veteran British Free Music bassist Barry Guy, peripatetic American multi-reedist Kern Vandermark and in-demand English drummer Mark Sanders, who mid-wifed the session.

Throughout the contours of 10 instant compositions from Birmingham and Leeds concerts in the United Kingdom, the three mate extended techniques, split-second timing, pitch and timbre augmentation plus subtle dips into the tradition. The result lodged firmly within the collegial spirit of Free Music, is also a wholly original variant. MORE

November 9, 2008

Ab Baars Trio & Ken Vandermark

Goofy June Bug
Wig 15

Atomic School Days

Distil

Okka Disk OD 12073

Without trying to make him sound celestial and selfless, Ken Vandermark is one of those rare musicians who is as comfortable in an ensemble as fronting one. Despite recording so often as leader, the Chicago-based multi-reedist is just as apt to show up on disc as an addition to an existing band or as part of a generically titled ensemble. That was happens on these two CDs.

Over the years, collaborations with Europeans have also proven to be particularly fruitful for the saxophonist and clarinetist’s musical growth. This is confirmed on Goofy June Bug and Distill with each offering a divergent – and equally notable – take on improvised and composed music. MORE

November 9, 2008

Atomic School Days

Distil
Okka Disk OD 12073

Ab Baars Trio & Ken Vandermark

Goofy June Bug

Wig 15

Without trying to make him sound celestial and selfless, Ken Vandermark is one of those rare musicians who is as comfortable in an ensemble as fronting one. Despite recording so often as leader, the Chicago-based multi-reedist is just as apt to show up on disc as an addition to an existing band or as part of a generically titled ensemble. That was happens on these two CDs.

Over the years, collaborations with Europeans have also proven to be particularly fruitful for the saxophonist and clarinetist’s musical growth. This is confirmed on Goofy June Bug and Distill with each offering a divergent – and equally notable – take on improvised and composed music. MORE

December 6, 2006

Bridge 61

Journal
Atavistic ALP172CD

Raucous and other-focused Journal is yet another entry in Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark’s ever lengthening discography. Largely concentrated on low pitches, the instrumentation on this notable 72-minute, eight-track CD is completed by Jason Stein’s voluminous bass clarinet timbres, Nate McBride’s resonating acoustic and electric bass fills and Tim Daisy’s chunky percussion strokes.

Playing tenor and baritone saxophones, Vandermark’s most common strategy consists of arduous snorts and vamps– one part glottal R&B honks, the other altissimo Free Jazz shrills. The other players respond, expand or moderate the attack. Thick strums and funky thumb pops from the bassist define the groove on more rhythmic numbers, while acoustically McBride outputs woody bass slaps. Spectacular in his drum displays, Daisy references vigorous backbeat ruffs and rolls along with subtle shuffles, rim shots and kettle drum approximations – doubling or halving the tempo at will. When not gurgling basement split tone runs, Stein often uses pitch-sliding trills for melodic double counterpoint with Vandermark’s saxophones or clarinet. MORE

April 10, 2006

GUILLERMO GREGORIO

Coplanar
New World Records NW 80639-2

Truthfully a New music session, the eight notated compositions by Argentinean-American composer/reedist Guillermo Gregorio owe their overall careful implementation and shape to more than the Chicago-based saxophonist and clarinetist’s theoretical basis for writing. Nearly all of the members of Gregorio’s Madi ensemble and featured guests have experience with improvised music, including the leader himself. Additionally he has such respect for the spontaneous impulse that space was left in the final track for an improvisation by bass clarinetist Ken Vandermark. MORE

February 13, 2006

Impromptu

Impromptu
Digitalis Purpùrea

Rutherford/Vandermark/Müller/van der Schyff
Hoxha
Spool/Line

By Ken Waxman
February 13, 2006

CDs recorded practically two continents apart, these session show how veteran avant trombonists of roughly the same vintage can adapt and collaborate with younger musicians. Each chooses to do so in a different, but very characteristic, fashion.

Giancarlo Schiaffini – born in 1942 – is someone whose reinterpretation of the trombone’s role goes back to the birth of Italian improv with the Gruppo Romano Free Jazz in 1966. He’s an autodidact, who shifts effortlessly between the improv and the notated world. A member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra, he has also involving himself in many jazz situations over the years. Simultaneously he has collaborated with the likes of John Cage, Luigi Nono and Giacinto Scelsi, with specific solo works written for him by Scelsi, Nono and other so-called serious composers. MORE

January 2, 2006

PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET

Be Music, Night
OkkaDisk OD 12059

This CD may ruin saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s long-held reputation as the ferocious, hard-hearted wild man of Free Jazz.

For the entire hour-plus CD by the German reedman’s mostly Chicago-based band is designed as homage to American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972). Additionally, the longest – more than 42 minutes – of the three tracks features mellifluous-voiced Welsh poet Mike Pearson integrated into the ensemble reading selections from Patchen’s work that are, for all intents and purposes, love poems. MORE

April 25, 2005

GOLD SPARKLE TRIO WITH KEN VANDERMARK

Brooklyn Cantos
Squealer Music SQLR 039

Proof – if any more was needed – of the Apple’s attraction for creative musicians – is articulated on the Gold Sparkle Trio (GST)’s new CD, which celebrates the band’s adopted hometown. Still, as the title indicates, the boroughs are as welcoming to as many players as Manhattan itself.

Furthermore, as 21st Century urban areas turn away from the American melting pot stereotype towards a Canadian-modeled multicultural stance, regional differences are being celebrated. One listen to the album’s seven tracks proves that the Southern soul of the Atlanta immigrants in the GST – reedist Charles Waters, bassist Adam Roberts and drummer Andrew Barker – hasn’t been muted in the city, nor has the experimentation and the woodwind brawn of its guest, Chicago-based reedist Ken Vandermark. MORE

August 23, 2004

ATOMIC/SCHOOL DAYS

ATOMIC/SCHOOL DAYS Nuclear Assembly Hall
Okkadisk OD 12049

More of an internationalist than most American musicians, Chicago-based reedist Ken Vandermark has made a point of forming concordances with European musicians. Not only is he one of the key constituents of saxist Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, but he often works in half-European/half American bands like the AALY trio, the Territory Band and the group featured here.

As its name makes clear, the octet combines the School Days band -- Vandermark, trombonist Jeb Bishop, vibist Kjell Nordeson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love -- with trumpeter Magnus Broo, reedist Fredrik Ljungkvist and pianist Håvard Wiik who with Håker Flaten and Nilssen-Love make up the Scandinavian quintet Atomic. The results spread over two CD sides are dazzlingly spectacular. MORE

April 26, 2004

FREE FALL

Furnace
Wobbly Rail 013

JIMMY GIUFFRE/PAUL BLEY/STEVE SWALLOW
Fly Away Little Bird
Sunnyside/Owl SSC 3504

Named for the LP that presented the fullest realization of clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s chamber-avant garde in 1962, the band Free Fall shows how the structured freedom of the trio can be adapted to the 21st Century.

Yet FURNACE succeeds on its own terms because the musicians involved -- American reedist Ken Vandermark and Norwegians, pianist Håvard Wiik and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten -- haven’t gone the neo-con route of recreation. Instead nine new compositions have been recorded, with the performance of the three as influenced by the subsequent 40 years plus of improv experimentation as the original Giuffre trio’s sound. MORE

October 20, 2003

KEN VANDERMARK

Furniture Music
Okka Disk OD 12046

ALESSANDRO BOSETTI/GREGOR HOTZ/KAI FAGASCHINKSI/RUDI MAHALL
Berlin Reeds
Absinth Records 001

EVAN PARKER/GEORGE HASLAM /JOHN EDWARDS
Parker - Haslam - Edwards
SLAM CD314

BERTRAND DENZLER/HANS KOCH
Asymétries
Ambiance Magnétiques AM 112 CD

Woodwind players galore in solo or duo settings are featured on these CDs, which not only replicate the stratagems reedists evolve to cope with such concentrated playing, but confirm the divisions between Continental and Anglo-Saxon interpreters. MORE

March 17, 2003

VANDERMARK/STRID/SANDELL/STACKENÄS/NORDESON

Two Days in December
Wobbly Rail 012

THE VANDERMARK 5 Free Jazz Classics Vols. 1 & 2
Atavistic ALP1372CD

TERRITORY BAND-2 Atlas
Okka Disk 12050

Ken Vandermark seems to put out more discs in a year than some earlier jazzmen did in a career. But if he keeps turning out fine sessions like this single CD (ATLAS) and two double CDs, then there's little reason to complain.

Like other improvising musicians before him, the multi-reedman realizes that the best way to keep things fresh is to consistently change playing situations. On these five discs the circumstances range from a series of duos with four different Swedish improvisers (TWO DAYS); 13 recreations of 1960s-1970s advanced jazz standards with his regular quintet (FREE JAZZ); and a speedy romp through four original compositions as part of a 12-piece mixed American/European band (ATLAS). MORE

September 2, 2002

AALY TRIO/DKV TRIO

Double or Nothing
Okka Disc OD 12035

SCHOOL DAYS
In Our Time
Okka Disc OD 12041

SPACEWAYS INCORPORATED
Version Soul
Atavistic ALP 130 CD

Eventually Ken Vandermark is going to have to stop wearing his emotions --and influences -- on his sleeve and CD booklet.

Now that the Chicago-based reedman has established himself nationally and internationally as an extender and interpreter of free music, aren’t the dedications he appends to each of his original compositions getting to be a bit redundant? MORE

July 13, 2002

CARLO ACTIS DATO

USA Tour/April 2001/Live Splasc (H) CDH 520.2

Someone once said that Benny Goodman didn’t smile that much; it was just his embouchure. In Carlos Actis Dato’s case it’s not his embouchure. As a matter of fact, if all woodwind players had as much fun improvising as he seems to have, then most sitcoms would have wacky saxophonists as next door neighbors.

Although he brings a goofy sense of fun to the proceedings, be aware that Actis Dato is no Louis Prima or Jack Sheldon who treats the music as secondary to his singing and comedy routine. He may get high spirited enough to sing at certain points of these 13 live performances, but he never debases the music in any way. Like Charles Mingus or Rahsaan Roland Kirk, vocalizing is just his way of showing how well things are going. MORE

June 7, 2002

PETER BRÖTZMANN TENTET PLUS TWO

Short Visit To Nowhere
Okka Disk OD 12043

PETER BRÖTZMANN TENTET PLUS TWO
Broken English
Okka Disk OD 12044

Three years after it was first organized and a year after it first toured, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet (Plus Two in this case) displays, in these 2000 recordings, that it has become an exemplary example of how to adopt free improv to large aggregations.

With a mixed cast of seven Chicagoans, three members from New York state, a Swede and Brötzmann, a German, it has all the firepower of a traditional big band with its eight horns. Plus, the three-man string section and two percussionists ensure that not only is its bottom covered -- so to speak -- but that the strings can alternately meld with the horns or shore up the rhythm section. Also, while the German reedman wrote two of the compositions, he’s democratic enough to make room for one piece each by Chicago multi-woodwind player Ken Vandermark, Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson and Chicago cellist/violinist Fred Lonberg-Holm. MORE

April 26, 2002

DKV Trio

Trigonometry
Okka Disk 12042

There’s nothing like constant touring to make any ensemble tighter and its members more responsive to one another. That’s why established jazz combos of the 1950s and 1960s sounded so good. However at that time the often near miraculous timing, instant inspiration and embellishments that resulted from a well-received in-person engagement were often lost unless the band was lucky enough to be recorded on the road.

One of saxophonist Ken Vandermark’s many working units, the all-star DKV trio is a contemporary bands that recognizes the advantages of road work and on-the-spot recording. This exemplary two-CD set, recorded last year in Rochester, N.Y. and Kalamazoo, Mich., showcases how the three treat a mixture of original and classic free jazz material. Most instructive are how different versions of compositions by trumpeter Don Cherry sound in each city. MORE

August 6, 2001

KARAYORGIS-MCBRIDE-VANDERMARK

No Such Thing
Boxholder BXH 018

Although he's only honored with one dedication on the final track of this disc, NO SUCH THING could be heard as a tribute to reedman/composer Jimmy Giuffre.

Consistently in the advance guard, Giuffre is probably the only man to have written a progressive jazz standard, "Four Brothers", for Woody Herman's late 1940s Second Herd's, and yet be considered a New Thing fellow traveler in the 1960s.

The now 80-year-old former teacher at Boston's New England Conservatory (NEC) influenced musicians throughout his career, but this band in conception and instrumentation harkens back to the drummer-less trio the reedist headed in 1961. Completed by pianist Paul Bley and a very young Steve Swallow on bass, the group created a new standard for understated improvisation. This admirable disc puts an individual and 21st century spin on those sounds. MORE

August 24, 2000

KEN VANDERMARK

Burn The Incline
Atavistic ALP 121 CD

Another day, another disk might well be the motto of Chicago multi-reedist Ken Vandermark. Only in his mid-30s, the saxophonist/clarinetist is so prolific in the recording studio, that at times it seems as if he's challenging Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy and David Murray -- men in their 50s and 60s -- to see who can put out the greatest number of CDs in a year, or perhaps over the course of a career.

Luckily Vandermark tries to add something to the jazz cannon with each release and evolve separate personalities for each of his many groups. The Vandermark 5, for instance, his main compositional outlet, has steadily evolved to become the top showcase for youngish midwestern jazzers. In fact, BURN appears to be as much a showcase for Bishop or Kessler as for Vandermark.

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August 4, 2000

WITCHES & DEVILS

At The Empty Bottle
Knitting Factory KFW-282

Thirty years after insurgent tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler jumped headfirst into New York's East River, admiring jazzers are still celebrating his achievements.

That's because Ayler's important work reinterpreted the music. The most "out" of "out" jazzers, his playing and composing was made up in equal parts of unbridled energy and recurrent, quasi-childlike ditties. Ayler's performances didn't "swing" -- as the neo-cons understand it -- but lurched along like an out-of-control crowd at a carnival, then abruptly stopped to dance around in juvenile joy. Concurrently Ayler music was the sound of uncharted space travel and of the most primitive marching band, communicated through pure emotion.

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July 27, 2000

SPACEWAYS INCORPORATED

Thirteen Cosmic Standards
Atavistic ALP 120 CD

Asked once what he thought of Sun Ra's music, Funkadelic mainman George Clinton famously said: "He's out to lunch all right. The same place I eat at." Now for fanciers of these pioneer Black nationalist space travelers here's a tasty meal, courtesy of Spaceways Incorporated, that serves up several entrees from both men's oeuvre.

Now before anyone looking at the band's name fears that another Klaatu is on the scene, it should be pointed out that each member is identified on the disc. The trio is made up of two Chicagoans: multi-reedist Ken Vandermark, who seems to have as many side projects as McDonald's has hamburgers; and drummer Hamid Drake who has powered the ensembles of Peter Brötzmann and Fred Anderson among others; plus Boston-based acoustic/electric bassist Nate McBride.

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June 17, 2000

PETER BRÖTZMANN

Stone/Water
Okka Disk OD 12032

Peter Brötzmann is no stranger to bombast.

The German multi-reedist first goose-stepped his way into world jazz consciousness in 1968 with MACHINE GUN on FMP. From its first extended blats of pure noise emanating from a (very) mixed platoon of Dutch, Flemish, British and German improvisers, it gave lusty notice that Continental jazzers had to be judged on their own merits rather than in comparison to North American musicians.

Over the years, except for the odd one/off project, economic necessity has forced Brötzmann to work with smaller bands -- usually trios and quartets and some commentators have even posited that the wildman has mellowed.

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June 2, 2000

PAUL LYTTON/KEN VANDERMARK

English Suites
(Wobbly Rail WOBOO9)

Few were surprised last year when Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark became the youngest ever recipient of the so-called "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation. A seemingly tireless composer, arranger, saxophonist, clarinetist and organizer, Vandermark is known as "the hardest working man in free jazz". But he hasn't limited his ambitions to himself. Forging partnerships with older free jazzers as well as younger musicians, Vandermark has continuously documented his work in North America and Europe.

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