Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ken Vandermark Jousts with Two Drummers, 1999

Once again I squeeze in a CD that I've been listening to for its own sake. In 1999 tenor sax/reed wizard Ken Vandermark, one of Chicago's very brightest lights in the last decade or so, went into the studio with two pretty brilliant drummers (Robert Barry and Tim Mulvenna) and let it rip. Design in Time (Delmark) was the end result.

The material covered has a mix of free jazz classics and Vandermark originals, a formula that has given Ken and his various lineups plenty of opportunities to express their art. This time out there are pieces by Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and Thelonious Monk.

The tenor-two drums configuration provides an abundance of possibilities, many of which they take advantage of. They can groove along in various ways, they can fashion out-of-time thrashes of drum-reed tumult, they can get into building sculptures of musical sounds. They do all of that and they do it with a kind of definitive authority.

Vandermark is the kind of player who incorporates into the modern free improvisation scene what is worthy about the history of the music while moving it forward in his own way. A kind of modern classic. This is a terrific example of Vandermark at his best.

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