Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vandermark 5

Somehow Ken Vandermark manages to produce a steady stream of recordings despite the uncompromising character of his music.  Not only is he unwilling to compromise in any commercial sense, he is unwilling compromise with ordinary jazz sensibilities.  Any given Vandermark 5 album will have a range of compositions each of which challenges the mood and taste that might have been satisfied by the previous piece.  

Still, much of his work is firmly rooted in the common soil of blues-based jazz.  A good case in point are the Free Jazz Classics, vol 1-4.  Even the title of that series of live recordings is challenging.  Free jazz conjures up a picture of musicians spontaneously conversing without the encumbrance of either a plan or a melody.  What exactly could a "free jazz classic" possibly mean?  The answer, of course, is that just because the original piece (say, by Ornette Coleman or Anthony Braxton) was free doesn't mean that it didn't produce both a plan and a melody that could be executed again.  So is the repeat version really free itself?  That is a bit beyond my grasp of musical metaphysics.  

I will only say that the Free Jazz Classics is a smashing collection of jazz performances.  I am playing 'The Earth/Jerry/The Moon' and 'C.M.E./G Song' from vol. 2.  The former is a Frank Wright composition, from Wright's album The Earth.  The latter is a Julius Hemphill piece.  Here is the lineup:
I am also playing 'The Earth' from the Frank Wright Trio album of that name.  Here is the trio:
  • Frank Wright (ts)
  • Henry Grimes (b)
  • Tom Price (d)
Wright's horn here sounds a lot like Albert Ayler (though it is rather more coherent than was Ayler's style).   It is an interesting study to compare the Vandermark version with Wright's original.  Both are well worth your dime. 

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