Spaceways Inc. and Zu – Radiale (Atavistic, 2004)
This is an interesting split album. The first half of the disc finds Ken Vandermark sitting in with the free-improvising trio Zu on four original tunes and the second half finds the members of Zu returning the favor by sitting in with Spaceways Inc. and jamming on four tunes associated with Funkadelic and Sun Ra.
“Canicula” leads off the disc blasting out of the gates with the horns improvising over an ominous theme. Luca Mai’s baritone saxophone and Vandermark’s tenor make for a potent combination. “Vegitalistia” is a very fast paced free tune with the electric bass giving it almost a prog-rock feel, while the hyperactive drums push everything forward. There’s a quieter section in the middle for Vandermark on bass clarinet, then both of the horns improvise collectively with Mai’s baritone holding down the bottom and Vandermark improvising on top.
“Pharmakon” finds the group building up a slow opening theme slowly gathering steam like an approaching train while the drummer keeps a martial beat. There’s a stuttering free section for Vandermark backed by drums and then the horns come together in a blasting improvisation, which is very heavy as the combination of baritone and tenor make for a deep, dark tone. “Trash a go-go” combines Zu with the rest of Spaceways Inc. and the difference is apparent in the funky drum opening that Hamid Drake supplies. The electric bass comes in, digging a deep groove in the proceedings, then the horns finally come in to state the theme. There’s more patience here that on the Zu w/ Vandermark recordings, the drumming stays funky and simmering and the musicians take their time in developing improvisations.
“Theme de Yo-Yo” opens with some funky bass and drums – this is Spaceways Inc. at their best, combining funk and free jazz. The horns state the theme and then improvise. There are breaks of free improvisation interspersed with improvising of the sings melody. The disc ends with a blast of Sun Ra, starting with a low key reading of “We Travel the Spaceways” which moves into a blasting rendition of “Space is the Place.” During this medley there is some wonderfully melodic bass playing.
This is a very successful disc, third in a string of great discs for Spaceways Inc. I would have preferred having the whole Spaceways ensemble on all songs, but Zu held their own quite well. Recommended.
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