Ken Vandermark: A Discontinuous Line, Free Jazz Classics Vol. 3&4, Ideas, Montage
Ken Vandermark remains wildly prolific, not only recently issuing the four releases under consideration here, but also a sprawling multidisc set from his ongoing Territory Band, one from the double-clarinet quartet called Bridge 61, another from his two-drummer Sound in Action trio and a duet recording with percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. For Vandermark, the unrecorded life is not worth living.
Among all of these projects, Vandermark's most enduring and reliably excellent has been his work with the Vandermark 5. The V5 had been remarkably stable over the years: Dave Rempis took over for Mars Williams early on, Tim Daisy took the drummer's seat in 2003 and Jeb Bishop had made the switch from guitar to trombone. So while it is traceable, it is A Discontinuous Line now that Bishop has left and been replaced by Fred Lonberg-Holm and his avant jazz cello. Without the third horn, the band doesn't piledrive quite like it used to. Lonberg-Holm adds texture and atmospherics and Vandermark fills in the ballast by focusing his own parts on baritone sax and bass clarinet, leaving the stop-on-a-dime derring-do to Dave Rempis, who is a demon on tenor and alto. Consider this V5, v. 2.0. New and improved.
As if the annual releases of the V5 weren't enough, for a time Vandermark included limited-issue bonus discs of Free Jazz Classics along with the fresh original material. The first two volumes were truer to the spirit of the (slightly) ironic title, including covers of compositions by Taylor, Braxton, Hemphill and others. Volumes 3 & 4, helpfully reissued by Atavistic as a 2-CD set, are devoted to the music of Sonny Rollins and Rahsaan Roland Kirk respectively, and document the V5 at its swinging, bluesy, burly best. Vandermark's arrangements splinter the voicings into three, with Bishop's trombone attracting the most attention and offering the most varied timbre, constructing the horn section Kirk always tried to be and creating the multiplicity Rollins' imagination has always contained.
The final statement from the Bishop V5 was the herculean Alchemia, a 12-CD set on Not Two Records documenting the band's stay at the club in Cracow, Poland. Discs 11 and 12 offered jam sessions with locals Marcin Oles on bass and Bartlomiej Brat Oles on drums and on Ideas, Vandermark reconvenes with the young rhythm section on a series of improvisations that spotlight the casual telepathy that only blood brothers can have. For his part, the leader is at his most relaxed blowing tenor, clarinet and baritone and making the case that he's at his best with the large horn, a heavyweight punching in his class, rather than below it.
If the V5 serves as Vandermark's workshop and main creative outlet, with the DKV Trio on hiatus Vandermark's primary alternate group has been the Free Music Ensemble (FME), completed by trusty bassist Nate McBride and percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love (who has emerged as Vandermark's most sympathetic collaborator). Disc One of this 2-CD set captures the band in Boston, while Disc 2 reshuffles the same musical pieces into a different order, resulting in performances that are very different, but remain hauntingly familiar from one performance to the next. Montage encompasses every facet of FME's creative ambition: compositions dedicated to great filmmakers, spliced together to juxtapose silence with volume and abstract sound experiments with roaring improvisation, all delivered by a trio as tight as Ben Wallace's braids.
Tracks and Personnel
A Discountinous Line
Tracks: Convertible, Version One (for Charles Eames); Reciprocal (for Santiago Calatrava); La Dernier Cri (for Elliot Carter); Some Not All (for Phillip Wilson); Aperture (for Walker Evans); Morricone (for Sergio Leone); Convertible, Version Two (for Ray Eames); The Ladder (for Giorgio De Chirico)
Personnel: Ken Vandermark: baritone saxophone, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet; Dave Rempis: alto and tenor saxophones; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello; Kent Kessler: bass; Tim Daisy: drums
Free Jazz Classics, Vol. 3 & 4
Tracks: CD1: The Bridge; Strode Rode; Freedom Suite, Pt.2; John S.; East Broadway Rundown; Alfie Suite (He's Younger Than You Are / Little Malcolm Loves His Dad/Street Runner With Child)
CD2: The Black and Crazy Blues (Blue Rol); The Free Kings Suite (Meeting on Termini's Corner, Three For The Festival, A Handful of Fives); The Inflated Tear; Rip, Rig and Panic Suite (From Bechet, Byas and Fats/Rip, Rig and Panic/No Tonic Press); Silverization/Volunteered Slavery
Personnel: Ken Vandermark: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet; Dave Rempis: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Kent Kessler: bass; Tim Daisy: drums
Tracks: One; Uncle B.; Ideas (part one); Ideas (part two); Still Up; Layers; West Coast; Tightrope; Drumsax County; Sonus
Personnel: Ken Vandermark: tenor & baritones saxophones, clarinet; Marcin Oles: double bass; Bartlomiej Brat Oles: drums
Tracks: CD 1: On A Wire (for Sergio Leone)/Montage (for Sergei Eisenstein)/False Rabbit (for Federico Fellini); But Only Almost (for Takeshi Kitano)/Looking At Dutch Stairs (for Buster Keaton); Drift (for John Cassavetes)/Decoder (for Stanley Kubrick); New Reference (for Peter Greenaway)/Ottica (for Akira Kurosawa)/Exit The Republic (for Orson Welles)
CD 2: Exit The Republic (for Orson Welles)/Drift (for John Cassavetes)/Ottica (for Akira Kurosawa)/New Reference (for Peter Greenaway)/Decoder (for Stanley Kubrick); But Only Almost (for Takeshi Kitano)/False Rabbit (for Federico Fellini)/Montage (for Sergei Eisenstein); On A Wire (for Sergio Leone)/Looking At Dutch Stairs (for Buster Keaton)
Personnel: Ken Vandermark; reeds; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums; Nate McBride: bass