Side A's In the Abstract is the follow up to 2012’s wonderful In The Margins. The interaction between Ken Vandermark's reed work, Håvard Wilk's sympathetic piano playing, and Chad Taylor's impeccable drumming pushes the somewhat traditional, but wholly original, trio into exciting and new musical territories.
The opening track, 'Cadeau (for ManRay)', sets the stage. The trio delivers rapid lines, pulling melodically in different directions, while the drums steady pulse offers some grounding and mitigation of the tension. The follow up 'BMC' is a lovely track, featuring a lithe melody as playful as it is serious, playing deftly, dancing over, under and through the chord progression. The next one 'Semiology' is a lovely reminder of how connected Side A is as a group. Wilk's touch at the piano is just right for Vandermark's clarinet work - spare but precise, placing notes at exactly the right time and Taylor's percussion strikes the perfect time to texture ratio, never dominating and always right there. The mood changes on 'Dhill', which digs into the deeper registers and proceeds at a slower tempo, Vandermark and Wilk's melodies intertwine, eventually building to a crescendo at the end of the track. Playfulness ensues again with '29', puckish rhythms, bright tones and a brisk tempo lifts the mood (at least for a while). The closing track - '4 From 5 To 6 (for Fred Hopkins, Steve McCall, Henry Threadgill) ' is brilliant, with a Cecil Taylor like spirit inhabiting the piano.
Side A's In the Abstract is a pleasure to get to know. The diversity of approaches keeps each song feeling fresh and the ideas flowing from song to song. Put this one on repeat and spend a couple hours together, it's quite worth it!