250

The Vandermark 5: The Color of Memory

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Despite many attempts to compartmentalize it, jazz—like most things—isn't any one thing. Instead, it's a broader continuum of artists exploring different areas. Only a relative few actually manage to not only travel along the greater length of that continuum, but actually push its boundaries. Artists who do this are often relegated to relative obscurity—often only appreciated later in life or, worse, after death.

Now in his early forties, reed multi-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark isn't exactly a household name to those who think jazz starts and ends with names like Diana Krall and Michael Bublé. Still, in the short space of a dozen years, he's emerged as one of jazz's most significant voices. Winner of the 1999 McArthur "Genius grant—typically awarded to more established artists like Anthony Braxton—he's rapidly developed a reputation as fearless improviser and progressive compositional thinker. The far-reaching Vandermark 5 is his flagship group, despite representing only a third of the 24 albums he's released under his own name and the more than fifty recordings by others on which he's appeared.

The Color of Memory goes a long way to consolidating Vandermark's vision on a series of eight long-form compositions spread over two discs. While unbridled freedom of expression is a given with Vandermark, as with German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann—with whom he continues to work as part of the Chicago Tentet—it's clearly directed. There may be passages where one or more soloists are given free reign to go where they may; but when the rhythm abruptly shifts, or a two-horn phrase emerges as a segue to another segment, a greater logic and a more defined arc are at work.

Nowhere is this more evident than on "Camera (for Edward Weston), the longest piece of the set at nearly nineteen minutes. While one would be hard-pressed to call what Vandermark does lyrical in any conventional sense, the piece's moody and spacious introduction is just the beginning of a journey that ranges from the strongly defined to the completely chaotic. Just when one thinks things can't get any freer or wilder, a phrase emerges to signal yet another shift.

Vandermark never loses sight of the jazz tradition—he just finds ways to honour it and challenge it at the same time. "Pieces of the Past (for Joseph H. Lewis) begins with a comfortable swing, with trombonist Jeb Bishop as close to centre as you're apt to hear; but before you can get too comfortable, a unison line by Bishop, Vandermark, and saxophonist Dave Rempis signals an abrupt stop, and bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Tim Daisy shift gears into a 6/4 rhythm for Rempis that combines extremes with a deeper appreciation of the blues.

All in a day's work for Vandermark, whose encyclopaedic knowledge just seems to expand with each passing year. The Color of Memory is another milestone in a career that seems to comprise nothing but milestones, with nary a misstep to be found.

Visit Ken Vandermark on the web.


Track Listing: CD1: That Was Now (for the Volcano Suns); Suitcase (for Ray Charles, Elvin Jones and Steve Lacy); Road Work (for Merce Cunningham); Burn Nostalgia (for Art Pepper); Chance (for Nina Rota). CD2: Vehicle (for Magnus Broo); Camera (for Edward Weston); Pieces of the Past (for Joseph H. Lewis).

Personnel: Jeb Bishop: trombone; Tim Daisy: drums; Kent Kessler: bass; Dave Rempis: saxophones; Ken Vandermark: reeds.

Title: The Color Of Memory | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Provenance CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 17, 2017
Read No Matter Where Noir CD/LP/Track Review No Matter Where Noir
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 17, 2017
Read Out Of Silence CD/LP/Track Review Out Of Silence
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 17, 2017
Read Plodi CD/LP/Track Review Plodi
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 17, 2017
Read Secret Language CD/LP/Track Review Secret Language
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 17, 2017
Read Shamat CD/LP/Track Review Shamat
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 16, 2017
Read "Generations" CD/LP/Track Review Generations
by Jerome Wilson
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "In The Shadow Of A Cloud" CD/LP/Track Review In The Shadow Of A Cloud
by John Kelman
Published: August 14, 2017
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "No Answer" CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Fly Or Die" CD/LP/Track Review Fly Or Die
by John Sharpe
Published: July 10, 2017
Read "Free Radicals" CD/LP/Track Review Free Radicals
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 7, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.

Please support out sponsor