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Friday, September 7, 2018

Ken Vandermark, Klaus Kugel, Mark Tokar – No-Exit Corner (Not Two Records, 2018) ****

By Gustav Lindqvist

Recorded at The Alchemia Club in Krakow on December 12th, 2016

Vandermark, Kugel and Tokar are back at The Alchemia Club in Krakow, where they recorded Escalator in May 2016.

Since their last release, Vandermark’s been very productive. The Construct Series with DEK Trio has been finished, another monumental release with DKV Trio, the first and second release with his new group Marker, and the second and third album in the Momentum series. And this is just a selection.

Drummer Kugel has a very long background of collaborations with Peter Evans, Switchback, Rivers of sound ensemble, Jemeel Moondoc and many more. The latest release with him playing I believe is with John Edwards and Joe McPhee (Journey To Parazzar, Not Two Records MW975-2) and is definitely an album I look forward to hearing.

Bassist Tokar; Resonance Ensemble (if you find the massive 10-CD Resonance box, do not hesitate to pick it up), Ultramarine and various other collaborations.

This is classic free jazz of very high quality, which we have come to expect from anything involving Vandermark. It’s also a trio which sounds very closely knitted together, as a group.

'Left Sided Driver' is packed with energy. It has Vandermark blowing his heart and soul out, varying the theme endlessly. He’s bending, twisting and turning trying to find ways in and out of the music. Wave after wave rush over me but Kugel and Tokar knows exactly where to go. The end of 'Left Sided Driver' is an elegant study in leaving it all out there. Well, the end is more like a quarter of the song in which the trio builds up energy to the boiling point. It’s a feverish theme moving machine-like forward, stomping and crushing.

Appropriately enough, they follow-up with a slightly more introvert performance. Tokar gives us an extended presentation, or should I say conversation that has the resemblance of listening to people talking on the other side of a wall. Chimes and bells lead us to the next part which has an intimate Vandermark continuing the story-telling. But something is not right. There’s a mellow melody trying to reach through and explain. As always, Vandermark will keep it going until his companions joins him. Sure enough, the trio join forces and we get to hear a bluesy theme that propels the song onwards until the inevitable happens: it all falls to pieces, except for Tokar who I can hear keeping calm while Vandermark and Tokar takes off, at least to begin with. Excitement builds up and suddenly its over and we get a few moments to relax.

This is also how this great album continues, with tensions building up and being let go. With individual freedom always present, yet with Vandermark as the unifying force that brings it all back home. Kugel reminds me of Paal Nilssen-Love on this album, with a lot of emotions happening in the moment, whereas Tokar has a lyrical expression that I really appreciate. I will be keeping my eyes open for more albums where he’s playing.

If you’re in the mood for straight ahead classic free jazz in a trio setting – this is a great one.