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 [VINYL]
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 CD.
• Show Bio for Tim Daisy
"Tim Daisy (percussion) has been an active member of Chicago' s creative music scene since moving there in 1997. He has performed, composed, recorded, and toured with many of the city's celebrated musicians and ensembles, including the Engines, KLANG, the Rempis Percussion Quartet, the Resonance Ensemble, and the Vandermark 5. In addition, Tim maintains an active composing schedule, writing for his own bands (such as Vox Arcana and Group 4-34) as well as contributing music to a number of collaborative projects- including chamber groups, jazz ensembles, dance, and film. He has had the fortunate experience to perform and record with many great improvisers both from around the world, including: Fred Anderson, Jim Baker, Jeb Bishop, Magnus Broo, Xavier Charles, James Falzone, Erik Friedlander, Per-Ake Homlander, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nate McBride, Joe McPhee, Dave Rempis, Steve Swell, Mikolaj Trzaska, Havard Wiik, Waclaw Zimpel, and Michael Zerang. Besides a regular concert schedule in Chicago, Tim has toured throughout North America and Europe, and has performed at numerous international music festivals."-Ken Vandermark Website (http://kenvandermark.com/2013/10/made-to-break-biography/)
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• Show Bio for Dave Rempis
"Dave Rempis was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts on March 24th, 1975. He began his musical studies at the age of 8, inspired by a family friend who played clarinet in local Greek bands, and by Zoot, of the Muppets Band, to pick up saxophone. During high school he performed in his town, district, and all-state bands and wind ensembles, as well as in a jazz combo at a local music school.
In 1993, Rempis began a degree in classical saxophone at Northwestern University with Frederick Hemke. Finding this environment stifling, Rempis quickly ditched the music degree to pursue studies in anthropology and ethnomusicology. As part of these studies, he spent a year at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana, Legon, studying African music and ethnomusicology. He also continued to perform with many different types of groups, ranging from highlife and reggae bands while in Ghana, to jazz, free jazz, funk, and contemporary music ensembles at home. He graduated from Northwestern in 1997.
Upon graduating, Rempis decided to focus on performing, and in March of 1998 at the age of 22 was asked to replace veteran saxophonist Mars Williams in the well-known Chicago jazz outfit The Vandermark Five. This opportunity catapulted him to notoriety as he began to tour regularly throughout the US and Europe playing clubs, concert halls, and festivals on both continents.
During his tenure with The Vandermark Five, Rempis also began to develop the many Chicago-based groups and international collaborations for which he's currently known, including The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Rempis/Abrams/Ra, Wheelhouse, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, and The Rempis/Daisy Duo. Many of these groups have been documented on the Okkadisk, 482 Music, Not Two, Clean Feed, Solitaire, and Utech record labels. Past collaborations have included performances with Paul Lytton, Axel Dörner, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Steve Swell, John Tchicai, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilssen-Love, Nels Cline, Tony Buck, and Joe McPhee. Rempis has been named regularly since 2006 in the annual Downbeat Critics's Poll as a "rising star" on alto saxophone, and as a "rising star" and "established talent" on baritone saxophone.
Aside from performing, Rempis is also active as a presenter. Since 2002, he's curated a weekly Thursday-night concert series for the Elastic Arts Foundation. The series has featured over 500 concerts by some of the best improvisers from around the world, while maintaining a focus on up-and-coming local musicians. In late 2005, Rempis helped form the presenters' collective Umbrella Music, working with a small group of musicians and presenters in Chicago to provide better playing opportunities for creative and improvising musicians. As part of this group, he organized the annual Umbrella Music Festival from 2006-2014.
Rempis is also one of the main organizers of the indie-rock Pitchfork Music Festival, a 60,000-person event which takes place in Chicago's Union Park every July."-Dave Rempis Website (http://daverempis.com/bio/)
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• Show Bio for Ken Vandermark
"Born in Warwick, Rhode Island on September 22nd, 1964, Ken Vandermark began studying the tenor saxophone at the age of 16. Since graduating with a degree in Film and Communications from McGill University during the spring of 1986, his primary creative emphasis has been the exploration of contemporary music that deals directly with advanced methods of improvisation. In 1989, he moved to Chicago from Boston, and has worked continuously from the early 1990's onward, both as a performer and organizer in North America and Europe, recording in a large array of contexts, with many internationally renowned musicians (such as Fred Anderson, Ab Baars, Peter Brötzmann, Tim Daisy, Hamid Drake, Terrie Ex, Mats Gustafsson, Devin Hoff, Christof Kurzmann, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Joe McPhee, Paal Nilssen-Love, Paul Lytton, Andy Moor, Joe Morris, and Nate Wooley). His current activity includes work with Made To Break, The Resonance Ensemble, Side A, Lean Left, Fire Room, the DKV Trio, and duos with Paal Nilssen-Love and Tim Daisy; in addition, he is the music director of the experimental Pop band, The Margots. More than half of each year is spent touring in Europe, North America, and Japan, and his concerts and numerous recordings have been critically acclaimed both at home and abroad. In addition to the tenor sax, he also plays the bass and Bb clarinet, and baritone saxophone. In 1999 he was awarded the MacArthur prize for music."-Ken Vandermark Website (http://kenvandermark.com/2013/10/made-to-break-biography/)
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Label: Audiographic Records
Catalog ID: AGR-002LP
Squidco Product Code: 21583
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
1. 6C 9:04
2. Theme De Yoyo 10:39