Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ken Vandermark / Klaus Kugel / Mark Tokar - No​-​Exit Corner (NotTwo Records, 2018)

This is a very exciting creative improvised jazz album by a trio featuring tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, drummer Klaus Kugel, and bassist Mark Tokar, recorded in Krakow during 2016. "Left Sided Driver" opens the album with raw tenor saxophone astride tight bass and drums playing a very hard and exciting improvisation right out of the gate, their sound is lacerating and powerful with scouring saxophone, thick sounding bass and shattering drumming creating a thrilling overall sound that sweeps the listener away, with seemingly limitless creativity at a very high speed. There is a powerful brief drum solo that develops a mighty rhythm, which is then melded into their overall muscular free jazz blowout. The music eases into a well articulated bass solo, played with well grounded patience and style, and framed by cymbals, then the group reestablishes its communication, coming together to improvise as a cohesive unit, driving relentlessly toward the performance's conclusion. There is a slippery bowed bass introduction to "Everyday Fabric" that is very well played, introducing textures and hues with percussion and horn gradually edging in. The music is spare and abstract, with much open space, that builds in pace and volume ever so slightly, leading to a more forceful and frenetic improvisation with gale force drumming and howls of saxophone anchored with stoic bass playing. The band roars forth like an unstoppable train roaring down the tracks, only to drop off for an abstract section of sculpted little sounds, proving that this band doesn't have to simply roar to get its point across. "Objective 49" has quicksilver clarinet, skittish percussion and bowed bass setting an interesting tone for the forthcoming performance, the improvisation is very interesting, with shorter jabs, and longer held tones creating an unfolding, unpredictable feat with wonderful bowed bass and pops of clarinet and chimes. Another short track, "Split Hinge," has a fast pace and a torrential free improvisation that is very exciting to listen to, with the raw and powerful tenor saxophone's dark and cutting tone meeting up with sand blasting drumming and strong bass playing to generate a quick jolt of powerful excitement, the free jazz equivalent of the Ramones going 1-2-3-4 and then pinning their ears back and howling. The final track, "Message to the Past," has a quieter and more reverential focus with spare cymbals and chimes and cello like bowing. A circular sound builds along side them, with Vandermark on clarinet, adding color and texture to the slow and spare performance. The music develops faster with swirls of artistic clarinet then saxophone around bowed bass and washes of cymbals creating a unique atmosphere, turning it into a classy and cunning collective improvisation that makes the most of everyone's talents, and marks the perfect ending to a compelling and successful album. No-Exit Corner - Bandcamp

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