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A Fireside Chat with The Vandermark 5

AAJ Staff By

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The issue is, is music going to survive. That's the thing I'm concerned about. The music has to function and has to speak to people. —Ken Vandermark
Although The Vandermark 5 bears his name, Ken Vandermark is practical enough to realize V5's success should be credited to members Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy, Kent Kessler, and Dave Rempis. For it is their commitment and loyalty that allows V5 to be a seasoned quintet unlike any other in modern music. V5's popularity obscures musical genres, cultural boundaries, political divides, country borders, limits of age, to command consideration from post-Cold War Yugoslavia to the bright lights, big city of Chicago. Yet debate continues among critical and elite circles of V5's "jazz" worth. The iconic Albert Ayler's responded to knee-jerk reaction to his approach, "It's a new truth now. And there have to be new ways of expressing that truth. I believe music can change people. Our music should be able to remove frustration, to enable people to act more freely, to think more freely." And perhaps that is V5's (unedited and in their own words) progressing legacy, not as free jazz, but as freedom, an idea that has become as cryptic as the word "jazz."

All About Jazz: Being the last man on an already formidable deal team is imposing.

Tim Daisy: When I was asked to join the band, I pretty much knew that I wanted to do it. I was really interested in what they were doing and I had already formed working relationships with some of the members of the band already, particularly Dave Rempis.

AAJ: V5 is a touring band. There isn't much of a learning curve.

Jeb Bishop: I've done more gigs with this band than any other. It has been the main place where I have been able to develop my approach to trombone playing in the last eight years. It has had a lot to do with my evolution as a player.

TD: Yeah, it's a challenge. It is amazing. It's a great opportunity and I don't take it for granted. We play night after night and I just try to step up to the challenge and hopefully, come out successful.

Dave Rempis: It is interesting. Just as a band, getting to play together that regularly, we really have an opportunity to get familiar with each other's playing and get familiar with the music that we're trying to deal with. That allows us to explore the compositions more fully.

Ken Vandermark: The willingness of the guys in the group to deal with the demands I make on them. The band works a lot and we work hard. We tour and rehearse constantly. I am always bringing new material into the group that they have to learn and execute.

AAJ: No one is getting rich doing this. V5 sacrifices monetary gains to play nightly.

JB: We're able to get beyond executing the material and to where we're doing something interesting with it.

TD: Being the youngest in the band, I am doing what I've always wanted to do. It is not really an issue for me because while we're certainly not getting rich, I am able to pay rent. I am able to pay bills and I couldn't ask for anything more than that because I am doing what I love to do.


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