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They say great minds think alike. I say great musician minds don't think so much alike as they are alike. Bird and Dizzy. Ornette and Cherry. Bennink and Mengelberg.
Operating in similar but different spheres for quite some time, the collaboration between Ken Vandermark and the Gold Sparkle Trio is a true meeting of the minds. Vandermark, born in Rhode Island, made his mark in the creative jazz community of the 1990s Chicago scene, while Andrew Barker and Charlie Waters' Gold Sparkle Band were playing in Atlanta. With their move to New York, the GSB became a trio with bassist Adam Roberts and released Thunder Reminded Me (Clean Feed, 2002).
This collaboration confirms their parallel existence. Brooklyn Cantos is a bit less structured than the Vandermark 5 and somewhat tighter than a GSB session. The disc opens with the Revolutionary Ensemble's piece "People's Republic." The chamber melody evolves into Adam Roberts' solo of solid vibrations before the horns take over with an urgency of sound. Vandermark and Waters' saxophones apply tension from the edges, eschewing pretty for the now. The Ornette-inspired "'Burg Girl" is the kind of sounds that early GSB records were made of. The familiar piano-less quartet is free to run with the pace set by Barker's dynamized drumming.
When Vandermark chooses the bass clarinet and Roberts walks his bass on Barker's composition "Marcella Variations #1," you can feel the country folk sounds that were once more prevalent in jazz. Just as "Carpet Quarterbagger" picks up on the New Orleans promenade, the band give us insight into roots without sounding Wynton-esque. That is, their academic notions are those learned in the clubs, not the classroom. Somehow there is more vitality and an organic nature to such things.
The nearly thirteen-minute ballad "Autumn Ever" has you thinking of the patience of Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins.
This is a fine intersection of musicians traveling the same roads.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.