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Yes, yes and thrice yes. That's one for each member of this reed and drums trio, as the music is so democratic that leaving anyone out would be an affront, especially when it evokes the spirits at the same time as it celebrates the timeless virtues of musical character.
One of the drummers is Robert Barry, a one-time stalwart of the Sun Ra Arkestra and thus a man with a pedigree; the other is Tim Daisy, who appeared in a drum duo as part of the Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet not so long ago. Here, as there, the two drummers don't get in each other's way, and the results are more expansive than listeners might imagine, especially as Vandermark's approach to his raft of reeds is understated but telling.
On Eric Dolphy's "The Prophet," Vandermark shows how he's able to produce something entirely his own, and indeed it might be said that any programme which takes in compositions by both Dolphy and Herbie Nichols is the product of musicians who are looking beyond the obvious. Suffice to say that the trio's reading of the Nichols composition "House Party Starting" belongs up there alongside efforts by the late Steve Lacy and Han Bennink in the dissemination of that master's music.
The evocation of spirits occurs most strongly, however, on Vandermark's "Medium Cool (For Paul Lovens)," where the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (when it was comprised of Trevor Watts and John Stevens) comes readily to mind, with reference to both group's use of small sounds and deft interplay. I made a similar comparison earlier this year in my review of the Rempis group release referred to above, and in both cases no other name really suffices.
Overall, this music passes the ultimate test, inasmuch as it repays repeated listening, even though some of it seems so much the product of three individual sensibilities that the act of listening might be considered eavesdropping. There are far worse offences, and the resulting stimulation is of a rare order.
Track Listing: Horizontal Fall (For Han Bennink); The Prophet; Red Cross (For Elvin Jones); Medium Cool (For Paul Lovens); Enlightenment; Togo: Side Car (For Tony Williams); Slate (For Paul Lytton); One Down, One Up; Love Cry; House Party Starting.
Personnel: Ken Vandermark: reeds; Robert Barry, Tim Daisy: drums.
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.