Ken Vandermark & Michael Snow

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD042

By Ken Waxman

A brief program of slashing, staccato improvisations recorded in Toronto by local visual artist/pianist Michael Snow and visiting Chicago multi-reedist Ken Vandermark shows that additional impetus can be engendered from a first-time meeting. Together Vandermark, who has a university film degree, and Snow, who is as renowned for his experimental films as well as his paintings, produce the sonic equivalent of seething cinematography throughout a CD named for a 1960 Snow canvas.

Especially on the extended “Duol One”, Technicolor-styled drama is supplied by the arabesque trills and yelping split tones from Vnadermark’s clarinet, as unperturbed, Snow’s high-frequency chording provides a wide-angle-like expanse on which reed heroics can be displayed. By the climax, tongue slaps from Vandermark’s tenor saxophone and keyboard pumps from Snow do a slow dissolve into almost identical irregular vibrations.

More low-key – literally on Snow’s part – the two subsequent tracks showcase the pianist’s individualist hunt-and-peck sound extensions, as Vandermark, now playing baritone saxophone, moves from rhino-like snarls to altissimo trumpeting. With the pianist advancing the tempered cadenzas further and further without breaking the harmonic line, his asides fit perfectly among the breathing spaces left by Vandermark’s note clusters. Overall, in musical terms, the two are perfectly matched to have produced what filmically would be a high-grade short subject. Perhaps they should meet again to create a feature-length program.

-For MusicWorks Issue #131