Oslo is a second home base for the Chicagoan relentless reed player Ken Vandermark, and the BLÅ club is where you usually can find Vandermark performs in this chilly and most beautiful city. On the end of October Vandermark chose to close a five dates Scandinavian tour at this club with his trio FME (Free Music Ensemble, Vandermark's moniker to the German label FMP- Free Music Production- and the British free improv unit Spontaneous Music Ensemble), after recording a third new disc at Oslo. Vandermark will be back in Oslo at the middle of this month with another trio, Free Fall.
FME features Vandermark's players of choice in recent years, outside his main combo, the Vandermark 5- Boston-based bassist Nate McBride, who played with Vandermark on the short-lived trio with pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, and plays on Vandermark's trios Spaceways Inc and Tripleplay, and local hero drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, who plays with Vandermark in the Dual Pleasure duo, the School Days quintet and its later incarnations with The Thing and Atomic, Territory Band and Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tennet. FME is a compositionally based trio that keep expanding its vocabulary, and this concert was a testimony to its great potential. Focusing on new material the trio demonstrated how Vandermark is bringing together the traditions of the American Free Jazz, with all the obvious references to blues and funk, and the European improv principles, with its affinity to explore dynamics and timbre, into a unified convincing musical statement.
FME began the concert with a muscular kick ass playing, with Vandermark on the Baritone saxophone, McBride all over the bass and Nilssen-Love octopusian hands hitting the drum kit from any possible angle. Later the band dived into a heavy funk groove and more abstract pieces, on which Vandermark played on the tenor saxophone, clarinet and the bass clarinet.
The new material, which demanded all the players to focus on their sheet pages, left a lot of space for each musician to explore the dynamics of each composition deeper and deeper. McBride (who played on a borrowed bass of local Tony Kluften, after his instruments was damaged accidentally at the Mats Gustafssonm curated Perspectives 04 Festival in Sweden) played as if he was on a sacred mission, producing more than a solid support but a very articulate gestures, always pushing on Vandermark and Nilssen-Love. The latter was the great attraction, a highly inventive drummer who combines the force and velocity of a rock drummer with the sophistication and humor that you can find in European Free Jazz and improv drummers such as Paul Lytton and Tony Oxley. Nilssen-Love played on his kit with his fists, bowed the cymbals, toyed with shakers and bells, keeping the the trio on fire throughout the concert. Vandermark managed the trio through these lengthy structured and more free excursions, never let the intensity and the highly inventive interplay to fall apart.
The great ambiance of the BLÅ helps to break any barrier between the musicians and the very attentive audience that packed the club. In such a club you can spot local great bassist Arild Andersen coming to pay his tributes to the trio. No wonder, when Vandermark said before the encore that he is about to leave Oslo the next morning, he was answered by a group of Norwegian girls, shouting repeatedly: don't go. He will be back.
Visit Ken Vandermark on the web at www.kenvandermark.com .