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.

Defining composition is Daisy’s episodic, 11-minute “Dark Blue, Bright Red”. Putting aside unsubtle pedal-point textures, and playing straight clarinet Vandermark’s 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 composer’s nerve beat stick work and wood block patterns, the tune eventually downshifts into a finale of gentling reed harmonies.

—Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #4