For the most part, we only follow the trajectory of an artist's career many years after his work has been completed. Looking back at the career of Miles Davis, you can now play connect-the-dots from bebop to Gil Evans to modal jazz to electric Miles. Certainly, back in the day, many a listener knew not where Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) came from. We are fortunate today to have access to so much more music and an artist like saxophonist Ken Vandermark is not limited by the executives of a major label. His ability to release a dozen recordings a year, sometimes in multi-disc boxes, allows listeners to connect dots almost in real time. The benefit is, of course, the different ensembles and directions he travels are not disjointed or wholly unexpected.
Double Arc by his Resonance Ensemble, a collaborative big band of European and Chicago musicians draws on his explorations, not only writing and arranging for multiple players, but adds the electronics voice of Christof Kurzmann. Kurzmann is a member of the saxophonist's Made to Break, a groove-based improvising ensemble. This session, the fifth stand alone release, is the ensemble's most diverse and perhaps most unbounded recording to date. It draws from the composer's explorations as a solo performer, his love of 70s funk and action cinema, and his wholly improvised work with the likes of Paal Nilssen-Love, Barry Guy, and Nate Wooley. This germination has resulted in a more open-ended sound, though one still without clutter.
The 14 tracks that make up this singular work oscillate between the odd electric gatherings of Kurzmann's electronics, the two drum pulse of Tim Daisy and Michael Zerang, and brilliant soloing by Atomic's trumpeter Magnus Broo, saxophonist Dave Rempis, trombonist Steve Swell, clarinetist Waclaw Zimpel, and Vandermark's baritone saxophone. The music pulls together the classic Vandermark sound he created for (the now defunct) Vandermark 5, of a broad shouldered horn section march and his passion for modern composition with its indefiniteness. These seemingly two dissimilar elements coexist within Double Arc quite nicely.
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