Recorded live at Krakow Jazz Autumn in 2014, Collider unites two of the hardest hitting contemporary outfits in an off the wall summit. It's notable that all the members of the DKV Trio and The Thing, except bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, have a history of working with the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, the large improvising collective par excellence of the last 10 years. That experience means that they effortlessly rise to the challenge of combining two self sufficient units to make satisfying music without compromising the style of either.
Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson's relationship stretches back some 23 years to the Swede's initial visit to Chicago in 1994. The former's guest appearances with the latter's AALY Trio documented on the likes of Hidden In The Stomach (Silkheart, 1996) and Live At The Glen Miller Cafe (Wobbly Rail, 1998) were merely the first of many subsequent associations. Both reedmen share an open-minded approach, which includes an appreciation of rock cadences as well as free jazz, which they bring to bear in a series of alternating leads and supports.
One of the prime examples of how the two bands operate communally comes in the excitingly hypnotic "Cards." After characteristically raucous saxophone interplay, the piece develops into an intoxicating groove with both horns repeating variations on anthemic figures. For many improvisers the test would be how to stop, but in a fulfilling way. Here the transition occurs seamlessly as both drums drop the volume at the same time to leave Vandermark expounding a sequence of bluesy phrases, and then another transformation sees Haker Flaten's bowed bass join as everyone else draws to a close, to form the bridge to the next episode.
While neither Hamid Drake nor Paal Nilssen-Love requires the buttress of another drummer, it's thrilling to hear them lock in together to conduct a drum choir masterclass in the middle of "Moving Map" (put on cans for the full effect). With such a rhythmic stew propelling them on, neither reedman need much excuse to go for broke.
Kessler and Haker Flaten allow each other space by the time honored trope (established on Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz) of one playing arco while the other plays pizzicato, or one high while the other goes low. Their twin throb pulses ominously at the start of "Left And Left Again," but even then you know this is won't end until the crew has levitated the bandstand. And so it proves. Satisfaction guaranteed.
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