Ken Vandermark's quintet releases yearly progress reports on his growth as both a composer and musician. Acoustic Machine, the fifth installment by the Vandermark 5, features the maturing voices of the Chicago jazzman and the highly talented musicians that make up this working unit.
"Working unit" may be the key to the success of this band's sound. As the quintet has progressed, Vandermar's writing has turned toward composing to the strengths of each musician. He continues to dedicate each composition to his musical forefathers, as he does here with Archie Shepp, Stan Getz, Julius Hemphill, Elvin Jones, and Lester Young. But each dedication is a mere jumping off point for his quintet. Unlike the young lions of today, this quintet is not damned to repeat the music of their fathers. Their dedication to Lester Young on "Stranger Blues" begins with Kent Kessler walking a traditional baseline and Tim Mulvenna working a regular pulse, but doesn't end in 1959. Playing with full respect to Mr. Young (as they do with each dedication) the quintet pushes beyond a "Lester Young sound," in effect making the music their own. Vandermark accomplishes this feat by accenting ensemble playing and individual voices of his band. Of particular interest here is bassist Kent Kessler's coherent soloing, especially his bowing. Perhaps according each musician equal footing in the sound mix accomplishes the democracy of Vandermark's vision for this band.
Trombonist Jeb Bishop is given plenty of space on "License Complete" (for Julius Hemphill) to apply an R&B bucket o' gut trombone solo. He also can paint himself as a J.J. Johnson accompanist to Vandermark or Dave Rempis' saxophone statements. Whether playing in the fiery medium of Archie Shepp's vocabulary "Auto Topography" or the coolness of Stan Getz in "Coast To Coast," the quintet overlays group interplay and overlaps solos so as to avoid the tedium of a head-solo-head situation.
This band is undisturbed and satisfed playing music from inside and outside the jazz attitude. They swoop upon traditions and reel in free jazz to make covert musical sense.
Please note the first 1500 copies of this disc contain a second disc, (begun on their prior recording Burn The Incline ) entitled FreeJazz Classics Volume 2 with covers of Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, Don Cherry, Jimmy Guiffre, Julius Hemphill, and Leo Wright.
Track Listing: Hbf 4; Auto Topography; Fall To Grace; Hbf 2; License Complete; Coast To Coast; Hbf 3; Close Enough; Hbf 1; Wind Out; Strange Blues; Hbf 5.
Personnel: Jeb Bishop: Trombone; Kent Kessler: Bass; Tim Mulvenna: Drums; Dave Rempis: Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone; Ken Vandermark: Tenor Saxophone, Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet.