Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ken Vandermark & Free Music Ensemble, 2005

Something about Ken Vandermark, and by extension the Free Music Ensemble as represented on Montage (Okka Disk), playing it safe is never an option. By "playing it safe," I mean a sort of free blowing blow-out that, while there is nothing wrong with it and it can give the listener an exhilarated experience, has a sort of built-in safety factor.

What the Free Music Ensemble does on these two live dates is beyond blow-out. They work with contrasting group dynamics, they allow for various instrumental combinations and densities, they get into a variety of propulsive channels, and they have worked out compositional elements that spark the music and set up the blowing segments in a nice way. Now of course there are many groups who do this, but Vandermark and company do it so well.

That is in no small part due to his colleagues in this group. Nate McBride is a bassist that can maintain interest and momentum with all the available free bass techniques and knows when any given attack will work best for the moment at hand. Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love is a really sensitive instrument who can bash or get cosmically sound-oriented when needed, in ways that bring out the vibe of any given segment.

Ken Vandermark is one of those reed players who finds varied and rewarding projects and excels within each consistently. Here Ken unleashes an ensemble of reed instruments, clarinet, baritone, bass clarinet, tenor, etc., and does something interesting on each one. He has been at the forefront of free players for a pretty long time now and he's the sort of artist I look forward to hearing regardless of the context.

Montage gives you two CDs of great live trio music. You should not miss it.

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