Multi-reedist Ken Vandermark’s great modern jazz ensemble The Vandermark 5 has been one of the top flight working bands in jazz for the past two decades. On this album, the core group of Ken Vandermark and Dave Rempis on saxophones and clarinet, Kent Kessler on bass, Tim Daisy on drums and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello is expanded with the addition of frequent collaborators Magnus Broo on trumpet and Håvard Wiik on piano. The idea succeeds spectacularly as the added punch of Broo’s strong trumpet and Wiik’s thoughtful piano playing give an added dimension to an already potent band. Bringing together Vandermark original compositions along with works from the other band members makes for a varied and interesting setlist, beginning with a couple of early barn-burners like “Friction” and “Some Not All” which barrel right out of the gate and manage to keep their pace and flow of ideas over the ten minute plus lengths. Broo is particularly potent, punching through the weaving saxophone solos to state his case. Lonberg-Holm was a fascinating addition to the band a while back, his electrified cello gives added texture and depth to the music and his solos are wild and fascinating. It’s not all grunting free-jazz, far from it in fact. The compositions and improvisations evolve logically with ensemble and solo sections evolving organically, and the group achieving a dynamic pulse that drives the music at any tempo. The music is well balanced and confident, leading to a great deal of excitement. This was a risky proposition to take, adding other musicians to a stable working band can sometimes have unintended consequences. But here that was clearly not the case, and the band is inspired to excellent performances that maintain both the intensity of the group and the attention of the listener over the course of a long and enjoyable album. The Horse Jumps and The Ship Is Gone - amazon.com
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