Those with their ears cocked to the Chicago scene have probably been following these two bands since their respective inceptions in the early Nineties and have no doubt been anticipating this meeting for some time. Vandermark’s been a frequent guest on the AALY Trio’s recordings, appearing of four of their releases over the last several years. Similarly, Swedish reed ravager Gustafsson is a key cog in a number of the Chicagoan’s multifarious projects. Their shared camaraderie manifests as a two-pronged sonic scrub-brush virtually guaranteed to strip even the most tenacious aural rust from the ears. Håker-Flaten rings in as a relatively recent conscript to the AALY ranks, but the nascency of his membership in no way reflects adversely on his ability to keep pace with his peers.
Built on a recording chassis similar to Ornette Coleman’s seminal Free Jazz the disc divides the trios along the convenient demarcation of stereo channels. As with its inspirational source this album is a blast to hear in each of its three guises, whether by full ensemble, or divided into right or left speakers. Rather than douse the listener in a torrent of the teamed-ensemble at full muster the disc starts teasingly with a duet of drums. Drake and Nordeson churn up a percussive tide that hardens both in propulsive force and dynamic breath pulling back in spray of sporadic cymbals for the basses to take gain purchase. Cloudbursts of staccato horns erupt above the choppy harmonic seas, soon dissolving into a clarinet solo by Vandermark that stretches the tonal parameters of his reed. Gustafsson answers with an improvisation soaked in overblown snatches of bleated color, providing a contrast that is at once garrulous and grating. As is perhaps inevitable given the ensuing drum-driven din, the clarity of the bassists’ lines becomes largely lost in melee.
Kessler and Nordeson soon receive their recompense and sharing a conversation analogous to the disc’s drum opener during the initial minutes of the Ayler classic “Angels.” Their bowed braiding of worried harmonics borders the fringes of monotony, but the shift to fingers mid-stride opens up the interplay considerably. Vandermark’s entrance on bass clarinet, flanked by the drummers and soon after Gustaffson’s hoary tenor, invokes the source with emphatic force. Don Cherry’s “Awake Nu” works on an appreciably visceral level and finds the group repeatedly referencing the theme obliquely passing, but concentrating their concerted efforts mainly on improvisatory interplay. Gustaffson scrapes the spit from his reed in strangled sobs and gasps, before easing back into a spate of glissando rasps. Vandermark’s follows with a less combative tack on tenor playing with the pieces of the theme and doling out clipped emotive phrases. The piece finds resolution in final foray through Cherry’s delicately whistleable theme. Here then is a meeting that perhaps should have come sooner (thanks to Okka for helping make it happen!), but it’s safe to say that the cinders sparked by these two trios meeting are likely to light listener ears for many years hence.
Okka Disk on the web: http://www.okkadisk.com
Track Listing: Left To Right (13:15)/ Angels (21:12)/ Awake Nu (17:06).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.