Ken Vandermark's fourth collection with the Territory Band, Company Switch, continues to mine ideas too big for the Vandermark 5. Lasse Marhaug, who replaces Kevin Drumm on electronics, seems more inclined to contribute color and texture to the ensemble's experimentation. Given Vandermark's imagination and the assembly of musicians, sparks fly and vast amounts of musical landscape are covered on this two-disc set.
Crackly loops approximate fire that explodes into electrical noise on the opening "Killing Floor. The rhythm section rises out of the dust with horn riffs, loops, and Dave Rempis' reedy blasting. Bishop spars with Marhaug while sparse, well-counted blasts constitute a supporting arrangement. With the band reduced to a low drone, including a bass clarinet imitating a didjeridoo, Axel Doerner essays a soulful trumpet solo. Jim Baker takes an off-kilter walk on piano, leaving it to the percussionists to tap and knock skittishly until Marhaug's electrical blast returns with the raging horns.
Staying consistently understated, Reverse One utilizes small contributions of sounds from each musician for an extended reverie. Baker plays a tentative piano line through an abstract electronic whisper and close horns to open "Franja. The rhythm section coalesces behind a lightly swinging tenor that bears down, increasing in tempo. Vandermark flexes some baritone muscle, followed by an electro sound wash from Marhaug. Bishop leads a charge back to the original piano line.
The second disc begins with "Vertical 8. Restless, shifting percussion sees the rise and fall of a simple figure played by the horns, giving way to Fred Lonberg-Holm's incendiary cello. "Reverse Two again features Baker's introspective piano, this time with more unexpected electronic interaction. Doerner blazes through the rhythm section and grainy electronics to propel "Local Works. Rempis fans the flames, then Baker takes over, with cascading horns sweeping him along. A Kessler/Lonberg-Holm duo resolves into a busy ensemble finish.
This welcome addition to the Territory Band's small discography shows Vandermark thinking and playing big. Often blurring the lines between composition and improvisation, the Territory Band provides a satisfying outlet for his greater ambitions.
Personnel: Jeb Bishop: trombone; Axel Doerner: trumpet; Lasse Marhaug: electronics; Paul Lytton:
percussion; Paal Nilssen-Love: percussion; Jim Baker: piano; Frederik Ljungkvist: sax,
clarinet; Dave Rempis: sax; Ken Vandermark: sax/clarinet; Kent Kessler: bass; Fred