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Friday, July 6, 2012

Platform 1 - Takes Off (Clean Feed, 2012)

We're pleased to present a double review of this new Clean Feed album from Platform 1 (Ken Vandermark, Joe Willamson, Michael Vatcher, Magnus Broo, and Steve Swell). What's interesting is how our two reviewers came away with differing impressions of the album. What can we say except, give it spin, see what you think.

Platform 1 - Takes Off (Clean Feed, 2012) ****

Lets say: A friend of yours asked you a few days ago, if you knew some cool music, maybe Creative Music or even Free Jazz, because lately he explained, he could´t stand those radio mainstream Songs anymore, always using four chords the whole song through, some autotune, to pitch the singer to the right note, etc, etc. You left him standing with a grin on your face, telling him, that you will have look. So you went back home thinking what might be appropriate for his dude. Maybe some Sun RaSquarepusherSon House?

Looking through your CD Library you catch a glimpse of the latest Ken Vandermark Platform 1 Release, entitled Takes Off. While hearing through this latest release, you realize that this CD offers some Free Bop with a lot of positive musical aspects like: beautiful melodies, some remarkable communication between instrumentalists, high energy interaction, but the whole release is balanced and never completely off the wall.

So lets look at the first song Tempest/2A>2B which starts with a blast of a theme, then turning into a rather energetic duet between Steve Swell, trombone and Michael Vatcher, drums & perc, switching to a well balanced group conversation that leads to an astonishing end of the track. A nice track that made me smile while taking its twists.

Overall, I really liked this recording with its composed and improvised sections and would recommend it to every open eared music fan.

If you are in a hurry at your local CD Store, I recommend listening to Tracks 1,3 and 7 to get an idea of the recording. Furthermore the recording is well recorded and mixed by Bob Weston and Chicago Mastering Service in April 2012.

You can pick a copy at Clean Feed Records a Portuguese Record Company by Pedro Costa.

The musician of this session are:

  Ken Vandermark - div. sax, clarinet
  Joe Willamson - bass
  Michael Vatcher - drums & perc
  Magnus Broo - trumpet
  Steve Swell - trombone

Platform 1 - Takes Off (Clean Feed, 2012) **½

By Paolo Casertano

It is unusual to receive a negative review on this blog. This is for sure not due to the reviewers tenderness (the team numbers among its ranks several well-known serial killers), while more possibly it is because our respect and care for jazz led us to the attempt of deeply decrypting musicians work, occasionally until we find something good even in some - let’s call them - unimpressive releases. At least this is what sometimes I find myself doing (and probably I shouldn’t have spoken in the name of the team, and more over not about the serial killers issue, you know…). And again, this maybe should say something about my critical approach.

I didn’t know much about this album. A single sentence from the short introduction to it on the label’s website - “their music is the burning free bop you would expect from the people gathered here” - had unnecessarily strengthened my curiosity. It seemed an easy bet indeed. Clean Feed has recently released such an impressive amount of great albums, many of them among my favorite listenings, and the group’s personnel is so bright - I thought.

It’s beyond any reasonable doubt that the musicians featured in it have gained a really well deserved reputation all over the world. And that’s why it is, in my opinion, equally honest to say that this is not what I expected from them.

The seven tracks are well arranged and masterfully played. Nothing less. What it lacks is inspiration. Sometimes echoing a 30’s big band a la Glenn Miller, some others recreating an Yma Sumac’s mambo atmosphere. There is nothing bad about it, we could agree. But again, the result is that all these great musicians are less convincing as an ensemble than as individual performers. I mean, at least as this ensemble, considering they all have a countless amount of other compelling projects in any conceivable line-up.

The album, in its 65 minutes, streams without any possibility of attachment and stronger involvement. I have always been a faithful supporter of Magnus Broo, both in his avantgardish outputs and in his more traditional releases. I’ve always found something really appropriate in his sound, as if it could not be in any case offsite. I’m still persuaded of it. But the interventions showing the real potential of the players are too few and dispersive here. Some successful interplay may be heard between trumpet and bass in the closing part of the second track.

Bassist Joe Williamson seems to be the only one aiming to a more coherent development of the band’s structures and if you wait until the “Deep beige/For Derek’s kids” episode and the following and closing “In between chairs”, you may hear a remarkable bass drone file rouge giving for once the feeling that players are enjoying the jam session and the benefit of a composition in a large ensemble.

Vandermark has obviously his sound. His screeches and dives in the low scales chasing the trombone. But I’m not sure he needed this experiment.

A single word from the Clean Feed’s introduction comes back to my mind: “gathered”. The musicians are gathered in the group.  Gathered and not joined together, or united in. Semantic is a slippery territory. Especially when you’re not analyzing your mother tongue. But this is what it seems. Or mathematically speaking, for once the whole is smaller than the sum of its parts. And more explicitly, would you let them play as background music at your wedding party? I believe they’re all a little bit too gifted for such a waste.

To stay on topic the album just does not take off.

This is just my impression. You can obviously make your own, listening here  and, if you understand Portuguese, watching here:

The drummer credited at the beginning of the video is anyway Paal Nilssen-Love, not Michael Vatcher, appearing instead in the end of the same video with another ensemble.

Can be purchased on Instantjazz.  

© stef


Anonymous said...

I see all your points, Paolo, but in the end I don't agree. To me it's an album that sends out great fun, the music is tight and authentic. So, finally, I go with the 4 star review although your review is profound and really well written. I like the idea that double reviews are contrastive, so that you have to points of view, by the way.

Unknown said...

This group reminds me of Atomic, who also never seems to quite add up to the sum of its parts.

prof. kien said...

hey, are you crazy? such a stunning album im listening now. sum of its parts make and transcends the whole as usual. atomic, platform 1 (not active now, maybe because of your crazy critics), resonance, vandermark 5 etc etc. all are great bands. every little moment those musicians composing and improvising are greaaaaaaaaat. don be so arrogant!..