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Ab Baars is a major figure in the Dutch jazz scene, having played with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink in their Instant Composers Pool for more than 25 years. Ken Vandermark has been the driving organizational force behind the fertile jazz community of Chicago for the better part of the last two decades, leading any number of bands and bringing together improvisers in the City of Wind with like-minded players throughout Europe and Scandinavia.
So in spite of Baars being ten years older than his American partner, this pairing is as comfortable as a reunion of grade school classmates. Recorded live at Amsterdam's Bimhuis at tour's end, Goofy June Bug finds both men splitting their time between tenor saxophone and clarinet (backed by Baars' regular rhythm section of Wilbert de Joode and Martin van Duynhoven) and both honor each other's musical traditions: Baars' compositions are as likely to carry a '60s free jazz influence as Vandermark's are to contain European classical elements.
Baars' Stravinsky-inspired "Straws" puts him on clarinet while Vandermark whispers so softly on tenor it only sounds like the black horn. Vandermark's "Memory Moves Forward" takes the volume down yet another notch, as he switches to clarinet and Baars brings out a shakuhachi (Japanese wood flute). Meanwhile, "Waltz Four Monk" finds the pair trying to out-gruff each other over a crooked staggering beat and the interplay on "Then He Whirled About" is downright bruising. This symbiotic doppleganging, however, is best embodied by the title track. Written by Baars, Vandermark turns it into one of his own as he spins characteristically repeated riffs that unfurl into rough-hewn solos, the Dutchman commenting in the background like a proud older brother.
Track Listing: Straws; Honest John; Losing Ground; Waltz Four Monk; Prince of Venosa; Then He Whirled About; Memory Moves Forward; Munmyo; Return; Goofy June Bug; Lunch Poem.
Personnel: Ab Baars: tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi; Ken Vandermark: tenor sax, clarinet; Wilbert de Joode: double-bass; Martin van Duynhoven: 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.