Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ken Vandermark - Momentum 1: Stone (Audiographic Records, 2016)

In early 2016 at the behest of John Zorn, multi-reedist Ken Vandermark curated a week long series of concerts at the experimental music landmark The Stone, in New York City. Calling his residency New York/United States/Europe, Vandermark gathered a group of old friends and a few new faces, and this boxed set gathers six of the twelve sets presented during this series. This collection focuses on the groups that were brought together for the occasion beginning with a set featuring Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Chris Corsano on drums and Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones. It is an inspired meeting, with two lengthy improvisations allowing Vandermark to move to clarinet at times, and his tone is nicely complimented by Laubrock's tenor and soprano saxophone. The piano and drums work wonders, pushing and framing the music which is well paced and thoughtful. The trio of Vandermark, Joe McPhee on tenor saxophone and Mat Maneri on viola struck out for more abstract terrain by moving away from a set pulse and allowing their music to develop freely and organically over the course of six spontaneously improvised pieces. The heat is turned back up, at times way up, on the following set where Vandermark is joined by Ned Rothenberg on saxophones, Havard Wiik on piano and Tom Rainey on drums. Theirs is a three part set, each progressively shorter than the last, and there is a lot of fiery and exciting interplay between the musicians as the reed players streak across the sky and the piano and drums alternate between torrential bursts and moody streams. The concert featuring Vandermark with Ikue More on electronics, Joe Morris on guitar and Nate Wooley on trumpet moves in a different direction. Over the course of one long improvisation, the musicians explore a wide range of territory with the unpredictable sounds of live electronics adding tone and shading and the always interesting guitar of Morris skittering and scurrying into the nooks and crannies of the music. Wooley is the ideal partner for this music, complementing Vandermark's statements with short bursts and long tones of sound. The powerhouse quartet of Vandermark, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, Steve Swell on trombone and William Parker on bass makes for thrilling improvisational music that breaks down any differentiation between front line and rhythm section, by melding into a very exciting collective unit that has decades of experience in situations like this and makes the most of it. The final group was a fascinating one with the leader in the company of Christof Kurzmann on ppoll and electronics, Marina Rosenfeld on turntable and electronics and Okkyung Lee on cello. Over one long improvisation, the musicians develop a sound that waxes and wanes with the electronics and cello making for a great canvas for Vandermark to solo over as well as engage with as a whole. Each disc on this collection has its own distinct feel, presenting six individual journeys within the whole. All of the musicians are acutely aware of their surroundings, and the inspiration that they drew from one another was palpable. Momentum 1: Stone - Audiographic Records.

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