December 6, 2006
Raucous and other-focused Journal is yet another entry in Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermarks ever lengthening discography. Largely concentrated on low pitches, the instrumentation on this notable 72-minute, eight-track CD is completed by Jason Steins voluminous bass clarinet timbres, Nate McBrides resonating acoustic and electric bass fills and Tim Daisys chunky percussion strokes.
Playing tenor and baritone saxophones, Vandermarks 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 Vandermarks saxophones or clarinet.
Defining composition is Daisys episodic, 11-minute Dark Blue, Bright Red. Putting aside unsubtle pedal-point textures, and playing straight clarinet Vandermarks deep sighing breaths and split-tone obbligatos unite for polyphonic episodes with sawing spiccato strings and patterned drum thumps. Propelled to a crescendo by the composers nerve beat stick work and wood block patterns, the tune eventually downshifts into a finale of gentling reed harmonies.
For Whole Note Vol. 12 #4