With a quartet of reeds (Nick Mazzarella, Dave Rempis, Ken Vandermark, Mars Williams), Jeb Bishop on trombone, Josh Berman on cornet, plus Jen Paulson on viola, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, Nick Macri on bass and Tim Daisy on drums, this Chicago band burns with amazing free playing!
Audio One (Vandermark/Adasiewicz/Berman/Bishop/Rempis/Williams/Mazzarrella/Daisy/Macri/Paulson)
The Midwest School
Label: Audiographic Records
Released in: USA
"The inaugural releases on Ken Vandermark's freshly minted Audiographic Records are a pair of albums from his most recent large ensemble Audio One, having previously cut his 'big band' teeth in Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet, in addition to his own Territory Band and Resonance Ensemble. The initial impetus for the project was an extension of the nonet Vandermark assembled to investigate Joe McPhee's work (found on Okka Disk's 'Impressions of Po Music'), coupled with Dave Rempis' invitation to present a special project to mark the 10th anniversary of Chicago's Elastic Arts Foundation. For the latter he convened a septet under the name The Midwest School, for whom he arranged material by musicians from said geographic locale, namely Chicago's AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) and St Louis' BAG (Black Artists Group). The success of that performance, alongside the depth of potential within the music, encouraged Vandermark to present the material again. Having increased the ensemble's numbers to ten, the continued investigation focused on music from composers; Anthony Braxton, Art Ensemble of Chicago (including compositions fromoutside the group), Julius Hemphill, and Henry Threadgill. The Midwest School documents the results in this concert recording from Chicago's Green Mill (January 31st & February 1st 2014).
The five pieces chosen here are presented in a way which is grounded in the intent of the original composition. Rather than using the music as something to be rendered 'in the style of' the musician(s) playing it, the delivery of thematic material doesn't really differ from the originals, and there isn't much in the way of deviation from the linear progression of the compositions either. Individual voices are afforded their place during solos, but even these moments demonstrate a knowledge and deference to the original composition. Where the music is discernibly different is the manner in which it is arranged. It would be easy for the arrangements to be overcooked given that the size of Audio One dwarfs that of the groups who initially recorded this material, the originals having been cut by trios, quartets and quintets (discounting Fontella Bass' vocal from Theme de Yoyo). However, the investigation of the musical architecture of each piece is so considered that the resultant arrangements manage to simultaneously sound as if they've always been played by a tentet, whilst appearing completely fresh and irresistible. This is arguably the great success of this ensemble, to pull fine detail from the subtleties of the original music's sonic palette, and distribute throughout the expanded numbers in a way that both befits the intention of the composition, and plays to the particular strengths and character of the instrumental voices to whom they have been allocated. Couple this with the caliber of musicianship found here, and the potential for recurrent musical discovery inherent within the compositions, and the results stand shoulder-to-shoulder with both the best material to feature any of those involved, and the revered originals.
Having a group comprised of local, well rehearsed musicians pays off in spades (it doesn't hurt that they represent much of the cream of Chicago's current crop), and across both discs [this review also covered International Report] they navigate the material with a control and focus which does justice to the strength of the compositions. Fully aware of the potential force generated by all ten playing simultaneously, they do so sparingly to maximise its impact, often only small aggregations of musicians play at once. The subtlety with which the ensemble interacts ensures that what could so easily become muddied through sheer strength of numbers is in fact lean and lithe, intricate when called upon, with a taut muscularity in the throw down. Like a prize fighter, the ensemble moves with all the nimble dexterity of a small group when needed, bobbing and weaving until an opening presents itself, delivering precise jabs or opening out to rain down a concentrated torrent of blows. Hailing from a city which has had a hand in producing some top class large ensembles in recent years, Audio One is instantly a contender to the throne.
The liner notes from these recordings suggest that Vandermark arranged 12 pieces by the Midwest composers in addition to 9 of his own compositions, and as only 10 of 21 potential pieces are presented here, there is good cause to be eagerly expectant of more from this accomplished ensemble."-Matthew Grigg, Free Jazz BlogAlso available on vinyl LP.
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Shipping Weight: 2.00 units
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Label: Audiographic Records
Catalog ID: AGR-002
Squidco Product Code: 21578
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Green Mill, in Chicago, Illinois, on January 31st & February 1st, 2014 by Dave Zuchowski.
Nick Macri-acoustic bass, electric bass
Nick Mazzarella-alto saxophone
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1. C 6:42
2. The Hard Blues / Skin 1 13:58
3. 6C 9:04
4. Keep Right on Playing Through the Mirror Over the Water 14:15
5. Theme De Yoyo 10:39