Friday, November 6, 2009

Another Jazz Ken: Ken Vandermark & the Vandermark 5

In addition to myself and Ken Laster, we have Ken Vandermark.  All he has over us is that he can actually play jazz.  Vandermark is a horn player (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) and prolific recorder and composer.  To judge by the two albums I have purchased, his work shows the rewards and risks of avant garde jazz.  

The Vandermark Five is his main band, though he appears to have several others.  Burn the Incline, and Elements of Style, Exercises in Surprise demonstrate the same genius for invention in music as they do in titles.  It is no wonder, perhaps, that Vandermark was the recipient of a MacArthur "genius award."  Both recordings stretch from edgy bop to out there free jazz, and sometimes the stretch is visible in the same number.  There is a strong element of blues funk running through a lot of the songs.  

I like a lot of what I am hearing here, but I like the more melodic numbers more than the more free base anti-compositions.   Of the two, I think Elements is the better work.  

Here are some samples.  With the reservations noted, I think they are welcome additions to any good collection.  
The Vandermark 5/Outside Ticket/Elements of Style, Exercises in Surprise
The Vandermark 5/Distance/Burn the Incline

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