Monday, July 21, 2014

Audio One - The Midwest School (Audiogrpahic Records, 2014)

The Midwest School is the companion album to An International Report, both the inaugural releases on Ken Vamdermark's Audiographic Records. This crew of heavy-hitters includes Vandermark on saxophones and clarinet along with Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone. Jeb Bishop on trombone, Josh Berman on cornet, Tim Dais on drums, Nick Macri on acoustic & electric basses, Nick Mazzarella on alto saxophone, Jen Paulson on viola, Dave Rempis on saxophones and Mars Williams on reed instruments. Whereas An International Report focused on Vandermark's original compositions, this album focuses on music written by his heroes. "C" and "The Hard Blues/Skin One" are by the great saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill. Hemphill grew up in Ft. Worth a generation after Ornette Coleman, but he retained that stubborn streak to sound like no one else. Vandermark is the same way and these are fine tributes with excellent arrangements and superb soloing. "The Hard Blues" was the culminating track oh Hemphill's LP Fat Man and the Hard Blues, an album written for 6 unaccompanied saxophonists. It is an excellent centerpiece for the saxophonists on this album who respond with wonderful ensemble and solo playing. Anthony Braxton's "6C" moves things into a much more angular direction, is is from Braxton's wonderful live album The Montreux/Berlin Concerts, some of Braxton's jazziest and most accessible music. I was thrilled to see "Theme de Yoyo" as the culminating track. When I was first trying to get into the music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago many years ago, this piece absolutely knocked me out and continues to do so today. It's a joyous and thrilling R 'n' B + jazz romp, and the group absolutely eats it up an explores all of the possibilities that it allows. Killer solos and raucous full band passages abound and it is hard to imagine a for fitting conclusion to this excellent album. Vandermark made a shrewd decision with this album, while it may be in a sense a "covers" album, he makes the wise choice of choosing some of the most accessible pieces of his chosen composers. It works extremely well allowing for an "inside/outside" manner of playing that is hard to beat. The Midwest School - Audiographic Records

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