Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sound in Action Trio - Gate (Atavistic, 2006)

The pace with which Ken Vandermark led or related ensembles have been releasing music on CD has reached a fever pitch recently. This is the second album by his Sound in Action Trio with Vandermark on reed instruments and Robert Barry and Tim Daisy on drums. The set up with two drummers and no bass or piano is an unusual one and sets this trio apart from Vandermark's other ensembles. On "Horizontal Fall (For Han Bennink)" they come out of the gate fast and hard, with the two drummers emulating Bennink's manic style. Vandermark worries a short stuttering phrase while the drummers wail. Ken Vandermark takes the Eric Dolphy composition "The Prophet" at a slower pace than the original, playing bass clarinet. A nice swinging version of an overlooked composition. "Red Cross" is an Elvin Jones tribute, which seems to bear little resemblance to either Jones solo work or his work with Coltrane, rather a tip 'o the hat to a great musician. Vandermark is back on tenor here, sounding ripe and engaged. "Medium Cool (For Paul Lovens)" Calms things way down, with gentle probing on the saxophone and timekeeping on the cymbals. "Enlightenment" was written by the obscure Hobart Dotson, and was a staple of the Sun Ra Arkestra, it has a great and memorable melody. This is a nice version, but I do miss June Tyson's vocals(!) There is some very nice drum interplay when Vandermark steps aside.

"Side Car (For Tony Williams)" finds the band celebrating the great drummer, the percussionists are front and center here. Nice stuff - controlled, but still energetic. "Slate (For Paul Lytton)" slows things down again with haunting intro. The song is quiet and spacey, with light touches on cymbals and gentle clarinet. "One Down, One Up" is a Coltrane cover, actually sounding a little Ornette-ish. Impressive drum interaction, and some exciting, frenetic soloing from Vandermark on tenor. The Albert Ayler cover, "Love Cry", was title track of one of Ayler's most neglected albums and is taken slowly, almost reverently, but still retaining the folky feel that Ayler preferred. Vandermark keeps moving into a deep growling and buzzing free solo while the drummers hold up a shimmering floor beneath him. Herbie Nichols' "House Party Starting" is a mellow version of the track by this underrated composer. The drummers interact respectfully and KV improvises gently over them. There's a lot of good music here and fans and collectors of Vandermark's voluminous output should find much to enjoy.

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