Vandermark 5 | Annular Gift | Not Two Records

Not Two | MW 825-2 | CD

Ken Vandermark – tenor sax & Bb clarinet | Dave Rempis – alto & tenor saxes | Fred Lonberg-Holm – cello | Kent Kessler – bass | Tim Daisy – drums

Recorded live in concert at Alchemia, Krakow, Poland on March 14 and 15, 2009 by Michal Rosocki. Mixed by Bob Weston and Ken Vandermark at Chicago Mastering Service. Mastered by Bob Weston at CMS. Photographs by Thomas Wunsch. Layout by Marek Wajda.

Tracklist: 1. Spiel (for Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill) [20:27] 2. Table, Skull, and Bottles (for Bruno Johnson) [10:45] 3. Early Color (for Saul Leiter) [11:42] 4. Second Marker (for Ab Baars) [09:31] 5. Cement (for Michael Haberz) [12:29] 6. Cadmium Orange (for Francis Bacon) [08:44]

Vandermark 5 | Annular Gift | Not Two Records

The Vandermark 5’s Annular Gift

is its most accessible and swinging recording to date. Recorded live (one reason) in Krakow, Poland, the quintet has come together (reason two) as a true aggregate of players.

This is their fifteenth official release (there have been some CD-Rs and compilation discs) and third for the Polish label Not Two. The others were the sprawling and ultimately satisfying 12-CD collection of live dates at Alchemia in 2004 (since Alchemia, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm replaced trombonist Jeb Bishop in V5) and a double-LP, Four Sides Of The Story (2006).

Lonberg-Holm’s voice has influenced the group since his inclusion on The Discontinuous Line (Atavistic, 2006), and the previous Beat Reader (Atavistic, 2008). From the opening “Spiel,” an expanded Vandermark composition, he extends his cello technique into a world once inhabited by Jimi Hendrix. Later, in duo with Kent Kessler on “Second Marker,” his electronics boost the dynamic bassist’s solo. Their pairing evokes memories of John Coltrane’s experimentations with two drummers.

But these interactions are but just pieces and parts of the whole. Vandermark writes intricate and challenging music for this ensemble that is likely to change rhythm and direction several times within a song. The ballad “Early Color” opens with a quiet grace, winds through a blue interlude, only to end in a full frontal attack of horns.

“Cement” opens with an inspired solo by drummer Tim Daisy to the crowd’s delight, before the funky horns and Lonberg-Holm’s pinging electronics chime in. The disc ends with “Cadmium Orange,” a restless and somewhat spasmodic piece that finds Vandermark exercising his clarinet, before the piece resolves itself with what can be considered a V5 signature interlocking horn section. The saxophone combination of Vandermark and Dave Rempis is an enduring display of horsepower and bridges the worlds of jazz and rock with dramatic results. Annular Gift just might be the finest offering by this longstanding ensemble. — Mark Corroto

Vandermark 5 | Annular Gift | Not Two Records

 

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  1. Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader Ken Vandermark has led his flagship ensemble, the Vandermark 5, through a decade’s worth of personnel changes. Despite the band’s rotating roster, the ensemble’s sound has remained remarkably consistent. A powerhouse unit capable of serene delicacy as well as unfettered intensity, the quintet has won a legion of fans the world over for its uncompromising vision of contemporary creative improvised music.

    The current line-up has been active for three years now, documented on two remarkable studio records, A Discontinuous Line (Atavistic, 2006) and Beat Reader (Atavistic, 2008). Annular Gift is this incarnation’s first live album, documenting in crystal clear sound their unflagging energy and dynamic sensibility over two nights (March 14 & 15, 2009) at the internationally renowned jazz club Alchemia, in Krakow, Poland.

    The mammoth opener “Spiel (for Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill)” showcases the remarkable versatility of the newest member, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Negotiating the lengthy tune’s numerous dramatic shifts, Longberg-Holm alternates between amplified and acoustic sonorities, veering from coruscating feedback to spectral pointillism. Typical of Vandermark’s episodic writing, the piece eschews standardized forms, modulating through a series of stylistic changes that range from metallic funk to austere neo-classicism. The rhythm section gracefully complies with each transition as Vandermark’s brawny tenor cries and tranquil clarinet musings contrast with Dave Rempis’ serpentine alto salvos.

    The thorny harmonic changes of the boppish “Table, Skull, and Bottles (for Bruno Johnson)” provide fodder for a string of pungent soliloquies, including an especially trenchant alto screed from Rempis. Taking advantage of a brief respite, Vandermark reveals his bluesy lyricism on the somber beginning of “Early Color (for Saul Leiter),” before the piece builds to a caterwauling finale. Kent Kessler’s quicksilver bass technique introduces the robust swinger “Second Marker (for Ab Baars)” and drummer Tim Daisy provides the labyrinthine “Cement (for Michael Haberz)” with a hypnotic groove, fueling Lonberg-Holm’s kaleidoscopic ruminations and a climactic tenor saxophone duel between Vandermark and Rempis. The entire ensemble contributes to the punchy closer “Cadmium Orange (for Francis Bacon),” ending the set with a rousing assault of jagged angles and pugilistic downbeats.

    For many reasons, working groups tend to be an unfortunate rarity in today’s jazz scene. For 11 years Vandermark has done a phenomenal job of keeping this group together, and not only vital—but inspiring. Annular Gift proves their second decade looks to be as promising as their first.

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