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Ken Vandermark: That Was Now

By Published: October 28, 2005

AAJ: Is the band going to start over with a whole new book, or will you be modifying older compositions for the new lineup?

KV: My idea is to take The Color of Memory and rearrange those pieces for having Fred in the group, just because that's the newest set of compositions, and it'll give us a transition when we're touring with the album, and people will have a sense of what the music sounded like. That makes sense to me. Then I'll begin writing new material with those people in mind. That's actually what I'm most excited about, the practicality of trying to deal with the most recent record makes a lot of sense. It gives us a starting point, gets us off the ground quickly. The main thing is I want to be writing new music for the band, and really take advantage of what the capabilities are for that set of instruments and players.

AAJ: At the time of retirement, how many tunes did that band know?

KV: I think by the time we did the Alchemia box set, that was the working book. I think there was some stuff we didn't do that wasn't in the book at the time, but pretty much we wanted to play everything that we had. It's pretty close to about 40 pieces, I think. The number of tunes since the beginning of the band must be about 150 or more. There working book allowed to play two sets a night for five nights and not duplicate too many pieces, which says a lot about how hard the band worked to learn the material.

AAJ: Are you enjoying playing more baritone?

KV: I don't know why, but I have a certain affinity to the horn. Maybe because as a kid I heard of lot of baritone players on recordings, Gerry Mulligan, Harry Carney. Maybe the sound, something about the tone. There's a lot things I'm attracted to that I'm able to get across with that instrument in ways that I can't with the other horns. It feels really really comfortable to me. It allows me moreso than with the bass clarinet, which has the same range, it's a louder horn so I can lay in on vamps and some rhythmic things in the bass and be heard in a way that isn't quite possible with the bass clarinet.

The group is designed to work as acoustically as possible. It's really good if we're setting up in a theatre or club, playing to 100-200 people, and not using a PA, it's pretty important to take in the technical consideration of what the instruments are able to do. At least for me, the baritone is superior for things of volume over the bass clarinet. Bass clarinet offers a lot of other things, the timbre and other things you can do which are quite different from the baritone. It's a great horn, I really really love it. There's a couple of things on The Color of Memory where I'm doubling the bass with the horn in a way that really pushes the stuff. I love doing that stuff with the Tentet and the Territory Band. There's something fantastic about having the baritone on the bottom, almost driving the group, or helping to drive the group from a rhythmic standpoint.

AAJ: Is the Sonore Trio active?

KV: I've actually been doing quite a bit of work with that group. We're going to attempt to do a West Coast tour with that group next year. We've been touring, we did a tour of Europe in February. We've been doing a lot of work in Europe. That group's quite active, and we're trying to figure out what to do for our next record because we have a bunch of tapes, live performance tapes that are really strong.

AAJ: With all the performances and recordings you're involved with, where's the DVD?

KV: I don't know, we haven't had anyone really want to do the DVD yet. There's a bunch of film footage of the Tentet, a bunch of stuff. Everyone's so crazy busy, slowly moving forward there's a process of trying to figure out how to coordinate the archive of footage and try to cut it into some kind of presentation. The thing that's interesting about the footage we've got, it's from every tour done in the states. So, there's something from 2000, 2002, November and April of last year, and there's footage of all the changes and developments within the band, personnel-wise and esthetically and it's on film!

The issue is trying to collect the footage and coordinate what to do with that. It's something I'm actually supposed to be working on now, to contact the people who have the footage and figure out the best way to get it. Because if can sort that issue out, there's people in town who have access to the equipment we would need to cut the film and organize it. The interest is there, it's just a matter of coordinating the materials. That's always the tedious part.

Visit Ken Vandermark on the web.

Recent Selected Discography

Vandermark 5, Color of Memory (Atavistic, 2005)
Vandermark 5, Alchemia (Not Two, 2005)
FME, Underground (Okka Disk, 2005)
Sonore, No One Ever Works Alone (Okka Disk, 2005)
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, Signs (Okka Disk, 2005)
Spaceways Incorporated vs. Zu, Radiale (Atavistic, 2004)
Vandermark 5, Elements of Style...Exercises in Surprise (Atavistic, 2004)
Golden Color Band/Ken Vandermark, Brooklyn Cantos (Squealer, 20040
Free Fall, Furnace (Wobby Rail, 2003)
Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark, Dual Pleasure (Smalltown Supersound, 2003)
Vandermark 5, Airports for Light (Atavistic, 2003)
Ken Vandermark, Two Days in December (Wobby Rail, 2002)
DKV Trio, Trigonometry (Okka Disk, 2002)
Peter Brötzmann Tentet+2, Short Visit to Nowhere (Okka Disk, 2002)
School Days, In Our Times (Okka Disk, 2002)
Vandermark 5, Free Jazz Classics, Vol. 1 & 2 (Atavistic, 2002)
AALY Trio/DKV Trio, Double or Nothing (Okka Disk, 2002)
Peter Brötzmann Tentet+2, Broken English (Okka Disk, 2002)

Photo Credits
Top photo: Ziga Koritnik
Bottom photo: Josephine Ochej

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