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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Resonance Ensemble - Double Arc (Not Two, 2015) *****

By Stefan Wood

“Double Arc” is the culmination of projects conceived by Ken Vandermark written for the large working group the Resonance Ensemble. An assemblage of influences as wide ranging as film scores, 50’s NYC composers, 60’s free jazz, 70’s African funk, etc., “Double Arc” is an epic work that is creatively stimulating, foot stomping, and at times maddening music. Comprised of Nikolaj Tzraska (alto sax and bass clarinet), Dave Rempis (alto & tenor sax), Mark Tokar (bass), Waclaw Zimpel (clarinet), Michael Zerang & Tim Daisy (drums), Steve Swell (trombone), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Per-Ake Holmander (tuba), the Resonance Ensemble is joined by Christof Kurzmiann (electronics/Lloopp), whose eclectic and diverse range of computer sounds enhance and perforate the ensemble’s already massive sound stage.

There are essentially two tracks, subdivided into sections, Arc One and Arc Two, and each Arc is a journey, employing different styles, modes and moods. Vandermark in his liner notes writes that the composition was influenced by Witold Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto, where it was shaped by using gestures, and not written notes. One does get a sense that “Double Arc” is formed by these gestures, as each section is noticeably different than the one before. For example, big band funk moves into stoic minimalism, then to free jazz, improvisation, free bop, and so forth.

Given the diversity, it is to Vandermark’s credit that the music is as engaging as it is. At times I feel that his influences are a little too apparent (Don Ellis’ soundtrack music; the big band funk that to me is less Nigerian than George Russell large group funk), but I am nit picking, as I can hear and appreciate the nods to those sources. Everyone is in top form; the music is nothing less than spectacular. Arc Two is the stronger of the two tracks, not for just the Gil Evans like arrangements that begin the track, but the free form sonic blasts of Section C which lead right in to the searing hot funk mixed of Sections D, and the blistering free improv of Section F. “Double Arc” is the last album by this formative group, but they go out spectacularly.

Highly recommended.

9 comments:

Loki Motive said...

Is it petty of me that I have been reluctant to buy this digitally because it looks like they took a picture of the cover with a cell phone?

Anonymous said...

Huh. I didn't know that you could download albums from the Not Two Records website.

Loki Motive said...

Actually, I take that back. The Not Two release looks great, it's only the Catalytic Sound bandcamp that looks bad. Not Two has some of their catalog downloadable through Sellfy at extremely reasonable prices (it looks like it's limited to the CDs, and not the boxsets).

Anonymous said...

It's available on emusic.com, where the artwork looks good.

Colin Green said...

If you don't like the quality of the artwork, copy and past a better image to the files from a Google image search. It's what I do when I rip a CD to Flac and the software can't find a decent album cover image, on occasions none at all.

Anonymous said...

I can highly recommend a program called MP3Tag for Windows users for managing the metadata in music files. And it's free!

Lee said...

Ha, Loki, I feel the same way sometimes too. But as with Colin, I'm often going and tinkering with album art and info anyway. There are so many metadata errors. That said, this album is well worth it.

Loki Motive said...

Yeah, I know, I just wanted to take the opportunity to complain about the lack of quality 'packaging' that comes with digital music. It's nice when labels go the extra mile and include a PDF of the layout, or a digital booklet (Intakt is great, in this respect). I ended up buying it direct from Not Two, which has a better cover image, but doesn't have any embedded metadata. C'est la vie.

Steve Reynolds said...

In the middle of my first few listens. Initially a tough nut to crack. I get critical of some of the KV large ensemble music as I expect much. Second suite stronger. A couple of the passages exceptionally strong. I think I hear Rempis strong on tenor and the high energy piece with Swell & Broo is powerful. I do think that there are more flat spots than I would expect in a project that Ken put so much effort into. Not sure if the inclusion of Kurzmann is as effective as Marhaug was in the Territory Band. Still sounds like the Kurzmann of erstwhile Schnee "fame". Not a bad thing but methinks a more skronkish hard core electronic effect could be more successful.