Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Resonance Ensemble - What Country Is This? (Not Two Records) 2012 ****½
By Philip Coombs
One thing you can always count on with any recording from The Resonance Ensemble, is a full meal. All of the food groups are represented as well as a few snacks that may not necessarily be all that good for you but are so tasty you can't help but smile and enjoy the sugar rush. This is one album that you need to approach with an empty stomach and an appetite for a big plate of artistic buffet as you will be coming back to it again and again.
And with any piece of art, you only get out of it what you put in. With Ken Vandermark, his dedications are a good starting point to help you get into his creative impetus. Track one is for the Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, who won the Nobel prize in 1980.
On Fabric Monument (for Czeslaw Milosz), the ensemble attacks the opening few measures as a unified, well oiled machine. What an incredible front line! The drums (Tim Daisy and Michael Zerang) along with the bass (Mark Tokar) start to rumble along and as soon as you think you know where this song is going, there is a crack of the snare releasing Dave Rempis' (saxophone) power. He doesn't waste any time propelling himself from the shoulders of the intro into a blistering solo full of confidence and above all purpose. Keeping in mind that Vandermark is a film studies graduate, it is worth following his aural cinematography here. Further along, after a series of big composed themes, Tokar sets a new tempo and groove that carries out for the second half of the track. A mood that Waclaw Zimpel adds a blissful Bb clarinet solo over. What a journey the ensemble takes you on. For nearly 20 minutes, I was transfixed, churning image after image in my mind as the track guided me through a part composed, part improvised masterpiece.
And the fun doesn't stop there, but as there are only three tracks on the recording, I don't want to spoil all the twists and turns of Vandermark's vision, but a few tastes won't hurt.
Acoustic Fence (for Witold Lutoslawski) allows Per-Ake Holmlander to weave his tuba through wisps and sheets of brass before any order is restored by a reunified front line blasting away. Tension builds to a saxophone battle and then complete silence. This opportunity is taken by Magnus Broo (trumpet) who expertly fills the quiet.
The third and final track on the recording, Open Window Theory (for Fred Anderson) is worth it alone for the touching and poignant Bb clarinet solo by Vandermark himself. As a dedication, you can hear the respect that is given through the instrument.
There is just so much to say about this recording but in fairness, the music describes itself more succinctly than I could. So as I sit back, completely full, licking my fingers, I hungrily await their next installment.
The Resonance Ensemble on this album:
Ken Vandermark - baritone sax & Bb clarinet
Per-Åke Holmlander - tuba
Magnus Broo - trumpet
Michael Zerang - drums
Tim Daisy - drums
Devin Hoff - bass
Mikołaj Trzaska - alto sax & bass clarinet
Dave Rempis - alto & tenor sax
Wacław Zimpel - Bb & bass clarinet
Steve Swell - trombone
Check them out live here:
Purchase from Instantjazz.. Can also be downloaded from emusic.