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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Vandermark & friends ....

The guy's prolific, open to playing with musicians from very diverse backgrounds. That being said, I have the impression that Vandermark is little influenced by the musicians he plays with. He does his thing, and the others try to add some spice.

Artifact: iTi Live In St. Johann (Okka Disk, 2010) **½

This album starts abstract and wild, with Johannes Bauer's trombone and Vandemark's sax locking horns, supported by Paal Nilssen-Love's explosive power-drumming, and totally thrown off-balance by the absolutely irritating screeching and scratching of Thomas Lehn's synthesizer. At moments inspired, but unfortunately not always, the music evolves without too much sense of direction. The quiet second piece offers a break in the otherwise mad chaos.

Lean Left - The Ex Guitars meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (Smalltown Superjazzz, 2010) ***½

On this album, released in two parts, with Volume 1 already available and Volume 2 to be released later this year, Vandermark and Nilssen-Love meet Andy Moor and Terrie Ex, the guitarists of the Dutch punk band "The Ex". On the major part of the album, you have duets between the saxophonist and the drummer, and that is the best thing about this album. The added value of Moor and Ex is at best in support of the two leaders, adding power and rawness to the proceedings, but otherwise they seem completely lost about what to do, if not for adding some noise on the lengthy "Right Lung". Their limited skills force Vandermark and Nilssen-Love to keep their approach quite simple, the usual power play with repetitive and unmistakeable Vandermark phrasing. When the powerplay subsides, more sensitive moments arise, in which the guitars contribute little, while luckily remaining relatively unobtrusive.

Volume 2 starts as a kind of mirror to Volume 1, with the two guitars taking the lead on the first piece for some minimalist noise-making, with Vandermark only faintly joining after ten minutes or so. The second piece is on the contrary all fire and explosion, with all four members contributing quite powerfully, also in the more quiet moments.

Tim Daisy / Ken Vandermark Duo - Light On The Wall (Laurence Family Records, 2010) ****

This double vinyl is the most welcome album of the series, with Vandermark playing duets with Tim Daisy on drums on the first disk. The performance was recorded exactly two years ago in Poznań, Poland.

The album starts with "Autostrada", slowly picking up speed with Vandermark on clarinet, then Daisy pushes up a kind of tribal rhythm, bringing the clarinet to full intensity, then slowing down for a nice melodious moment. "The Empty Chair" is the ideal Vandermark + percussion duet, full of funky power, deep rhythmic grooves, offering the drummer all the opportunities to demonstrate what can be done if the rhythm is already so inherently present in the solo instrument, and that's what Daisy does, grasping the opportunity to play slow, or double-time, or play around the beat, all cleverness and subtlety, driving the reverse situation to an extreme in the last minutes. Man, this is great fun!

The B-side starts with "Turnabout", a quiet and sensitive piece, lyrical and sweet, and is followed "Landing", in which the rhythm picks up again for some great funky improv, not unlike what we've heard before, yet always nice to hear again, with "Decollage" being more abstract free improv without clear patterns.

On the second disk, Tim Daisy plays seven pieces for solo percussion, and on the D-side, Vandermark brings four 'études for Jimmy Giuffre' on clarinet. Both solo sides are quite interesting to listen to, and a nice addition to complete the album, yet are not really essential.

Watch a clip of Vandermark + Daisy, recorded on May 15, 2008, so exactly two years ago.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef


Anonymous said...

Wow, that duo video with Daisy is great, is it also featured on the album?

Anonymous said...

I have the 'Artifact' cd and although i agree with you it is maybe not the best by these players i think it is WAY better and more interesting than your description (and rating). Check it out a second may find something else in there.

Stef said...

It is not exactly like on the album, but it is "Empty Chair", the last track of the first side.

Stef said...

Hi Anonymous 2,
This is all very subjective. If you think it's way better, then I'm sure you're right. I can only say what I think and feel when I hear it. It could be much better.


Guy said...

I think the iTi album is quite interesting, but lacking in dynamics. Probably one of those albums that I won't play that often anymore.
Agree that the Lean Left album is stronger, and especially because of the amazing drums/sax interplay, which is as good as their work on the Chicago/Milwaukee volumes imo. I'd give it ****.
I dig the 2LP as well, though I could've done without the solo sides.