A key reason for why I like this years ‘Album of the year’ (per the collective), Jaimie Branch's Fly Or Die, is the way that a seemingly innocent and safe beat suddenly starts to decompose and fall apart, like walls tumbling down, just to resurrect as something completely different. I guess I just love when a simple theme explodes in front of me. I’ve been trying to find similar albums after Fly Or Die, and this is one of them. The comparison stops right here.
Marker is Andrew Clinkman on guitar (left), Steve Marquette on guitar (right), Macie Stewart on keyboard and violin, Phil Sudderberg on drums, and finally Ken Vandermark on reeds.
Guitarist Andrew Clinkman is Chicago-based and a member of the band “Cowboy Band” who’s album Cowboy songs cover cowboy songs, in a way that at least I have never heard before. Check on their BandCamp site. Full of experimental joy and energy which reminds me of Irish pub rock bands of the past... Clinkman has also released the solo-album “The Joy Of Cooking” which should perhaps have its own review. Well worth checking out anyway.
Second guitarist in Marker, Steve Marquette, was last mentioned here on FJB playing on "The Few" album Fragments of a luxury vessel. Marquette has his own quintet (Steve Marquette Quintet) and is in general a very active participant in the Chicago free jazz scene.
Macie Stewart on keyboards and violin, plays in the rock band "Marrow" and previosly in "Kids These Days", a now disbanded indie band. She’s also the second half of “Ohmme” (with Sima Cunningham).
Playing the drums is Phil Suddenberg, who’s duo with tenor saxophonist Gerrit Hatcher is well worth looking into, and he’s also part of the rock-/indieband “Wei Zhongle”. Their album Nice mask over an ugly face is brilliant. It sounds like “The Shins” but more experimental and daring!
Last but not least we have reedsman giant Ken Vandermark. Known to many on FJB of course. His new band Marker shows the constant curiosity and willingness to always develop forward, onwards, and what a debut album this is. It’s been getting so much playtime here at home that my wife’s forbidden me to whistle and hum parts of the motif from 'Okinawa Bullfight' when walking around the house.
The first track, 'Okinawa Bullfight' is in essence a 23 minute long song packed with surprises. I’m gently nodding my head to the groove during the first 3 minutes. There’s a cool vibe surrounding the melody the guitars join in I’m starting to wonder where this is going. The beat just keeps on pumping in the background, much like a machine. Then things starts to come off the wall. I open my eyes wide. Nope, false alarm, back to the smoke filled bar, a flavor of the eighties rolls in over funky keyboards. Then it happens again. It all falls apart before the beat comes back again. This is an effective way of getting my attention. The group seems to move through different emotions with ease, and I find myself being captivated by how well they work together. It’s fresh, adventurous and very engaging.
Each song is dedicated to an artist and 'Okinawa Bullfight' carries the dedication for the late Belgian movie director & feminist Chantal Akerman. Movie director and feminist feels very simplified. Perhaps extraordinary artist, pioneering feminist and bold visionary are better ways to describe Akerman. And hearing the music on this first track I’d say it’s a very nice homage to Akerman – full of life, full of energy and full of surprises.
'Every Carnation (for Pina Bausch)' – or Philippina Bausch – the late German choreographer and dance director – has a theme which, similar to Okinawa Bullfight, provides a somewhat safe haven from which Marker can choose to move into different styles. And they do! During the 23 minutes there’s room for everyone to move. Vandermark switches to clarinet and having one guitar in each channel created interesting layers. Another highly satisfying performance – again, full of surprises.
Anthony Braxton and Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads, Parliament-Funkadelic) is dedicated the last song on this album: 'Doctors In The Shot.' After a carefully crafted and extended introduction there’s a thumping post-grunge beat with 2 guitars and drums marching forward. Intensity is increased and I’m almost waiting for Dave Grohl to start singing. But it all comes to a halt and moves in a different direction – of course! Melancholic waves with violin carries the song until it’s ready for another explosion. In wave after wave Marker balance between the introvert and the furious.
Vandermark is such a creative force of today’s free and improvised music scene. I’m so impressed with this new group, and it’s clear that Vandermark is always looking for new and interesting projects. This album is putting all my other reviews behind schedule since I just want to hear Wired For Sound one more time.
I hope to hear more from Marker in 2018!