Ken Vandermark & Friends:
A Consumer Guide
NRG Ensemble: Calling All Mothers (1993 , Quinnah).
Hal Russell was one of the ancients of Chicago's avant-jazz scene.
Initially a drummer, he picked up other instruments as the need or
fancy struck him -- vibes, trumpet, saxophone. In the '80s he put
together the NRG Ensemble, which was finally getting some attention
when he died in 1992. His band carried on after Russell's death,
but you couldn't exactly call it a ghost band. The band included
saxophonist Mars Williams and bassists Kent Kessler and Brian
Sandstrom, and they recruited the new kid on the block to fill
Russell's shoes: Ken Vandermark. This album, cut about a year
after Russell's death, carries on with three Russell pieces, but
Vandermark and Williams also wrote three pieces each, and drummer
Steve Hunt contributed to the other two. This manages to sustain
Russell's anarchism, but the saxophone play is even more vibrant.
Ken Vandermark/Barrage Double Trio: Utility Hitter (1995
One bass-drums-reeds trio (Nate McBride, Curt Newton, Vandermark) came
out of Boston; the other (Kent Kessler, Hamid Drake, Mars Williams) is
strictly Chicago. The liner notes help you keep them straight, which
is a blessing, because there's a lot going on here. Vandermark composed
six pieces, labeled as dedications to musicians famous enough that you
can figure them out -- Mingus, Ornette, Ayler, Cherry. They sandwich
five shorter free improvs: one shot each for of the trios, and three
pair-ups ("Bass Duo," "Drum Duo," "Tenor Duo"). It's as straightforward
as cutting-edge free jazz gets. While the Ayler concept descends into
dueling tenor hell, the opener dedicated to Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and
Johnny Griffin is as fun a joust as the inspirations. Best of all is
the closer, "Polarity," dedicated to Andrew Hill: not so obvious, what
with no piano, but Hamid Drake lays down an irresistible rhythm, and
Vandermark one-ups Joe Henderson on tenor sax.
Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Kurt Kessler: A Meeting in Chicago
(1996 , Okkadisk).
Joe Morris, Ken Vandermark, Hans Poppel: Like Rays
(1996 , Knitting Factory Works).
With all of the pieces jointly credited, this looks like an improvisatory
effort that doesn't quite come off. Morris seems to be the lead player
here, but while his guitar sets the tone and pace, he rarely finishes a
complete thought. Vandermark limits himself to clarinet and bass clarinet,
which keeps him quieter than usual; he might have intended to lurk in the
background, but with neither Morris nor Poppel giving him much cover, he
winds up being the force that extends and sustains Morris' fragments.
Poppel decorates, his stray notes adding to the fractured landscape, his
rocking trying to coax some rhythm out of an experiment going nowhere
The Crown Royals: All Night Burner (1995-97, Estrus).
The Vandermark 5: Target or Flag (1997 , Atavistic).
Tripleplay (Nate McBride, Curt Newton, Ken Vandermark): Expansion
Slang (1998 , Boxholder):
McBride (bass) and Newton (drums) live and work in Boston. They get top
billing because this is their home turf, and because McBride wrote two
of the five pieces,
The Crown Royals: Funky-Do (1998 , Estrus).
The Vandermark 5: Simpatico (1998 , Atavistic).
Ken Vandermark's Joe Harriott Project: Straight Lines
(1998 , Atavistic).
Harriott was a Jamaican alto saxophonist whose short career, based in
England, is often compared to Ornette Coleman
Ken Vandermark's Sound in Action Trio: Design in Time
The Vandermark 5: Burn the Incline (1999, Atavistic)
School Days: Crossing Division (2000, Okkadisk).
The Vandermark 5: Acoustic Machine (2001, Atavistic).
Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Dual Pleasure (2003 ,
Ken Vandermark: Furniture Music (2002 , Okkadisk).
It was inevitable that Vandermark would attempt a solo album. It helps
that he keeps the pieces short, and that he varies the mix by switching
between several weights of saxophone and clarinet. This yields a veritable
catalog of techniques, crafted around a baker's dozen of dedications --
obvious touchstones like Evan Parker (shrill and warbly), Peter Brötzmann
(rough and heavy), Joe McPhee (light and frosty); less obvious ones like
Lennie Tristano (slo-mo be-bop), John Cage (indeterminacy that somehow
flows), Mississippi Fred McDowell (blue notes to diddle with), and Erik
Satie (functionality that blends into the environment, like furniture);
and a smattering of painters, writers and filmmakers. In small doses it
is clever, even brilliant. Overall, of course, it makes for tedious and
sometimes painful listening -- the foghorn turmoil of "(brüllt) after
Jaap Blonk," in particular, is not something to miss, nor to repeat.
Attempting to grade anything this extraordinary yet unlistenable is
The Vandermark 5: Airports for Light (2002 , Atavistic)
Free Fall (Ken Vandermark, Ingebright Håker Flaten, Håvard Wilk):
Furnace (2002 , Wobbly Rail)
The following are records which Ken Vandermark has played on. This generally
ignores various artist compilations, singles, non-LP/CD formats.
- Fourth Stream: Fourth Stream [Crystal Reflections: 1984]
- Lombard Street: Stone Zoo [(no label)] -- cassette
- Lombard Street: All That Falls [(no label)] -- cassette
- Ken Vandermark & Curt Newton: Concert for Jimmy Lyons [Stoidal Circus: 1992]
- Vandermark Quartet: Big Head Eddie [1993.02; Platypus 1]
- NRG Ensemble: Calling All Mothers [1993.11; Quinnah 5: 1994]
- Caffeine (Jim Baker, Steve Hunt, Ken Vandermark): Caffeine [1993.11.20; Okkadisk 12002: 1994]
- Syl Johnson With Hi Rhythm: Back in the Game [Delmark 674: 1994] -- arranged horns for 5 tracks, plays on 9 (of 14)
- The Flying Luttenbachers: Constructive Destruction [ugEXPLODE 5/Quinnah 6: 1995]
- Vandermark Quartet: Solid Action [1994.05; Platypus 2]
- Ken Vandermark: Standards [1994.07.25-28; Quinnah 8]
- Steelwool Trio: International Front [1994.09.05-06; Okkadisk 12005: 1998]
- The Flying Luttenbachers: Destroy All Music [ugEXPLODE 6: 1995; Skin Graft 54: 1998]
- The Flying Luttenbachers: Retrospektiw III [1991-1995; ugEXPLODE/Quinnah: 1998]
- Maestro Subgum and the Whole: Don't Flirt [Plonk: 1995] -- guest, bass clarinet on three tracks
- The Denison/Kimball Trio: Soul Machine [Skin Graft 22: 1995.04.17] -- one track
- The Coctails: Long Sound [Carrot Top 2: 1995.05.01] -- plays on 3 tracks
- Ken Vandermark/Barrage Double Trio: Utility Hitter [1995.09.09-10; Quinnah 9: 1996]
- FJF: Blow Horn [1995.10.15; Okkadisk 12019: 1997]
- NRG Ensemble: This Is My House [Delmark 485: 1996]
- Falstaff: II [Homestead: 1996] -- guest
- Cinghiale: Hoofbeats of the Snorting Swine [1995.03-1996.02; Eighth Day Music 80001: 1996]
- Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Kurt Kessler: A Meeting in Chicago [1996.02.14; Eighth Day 80008: 1997; Okkadisk 12016: 1998]
- Steam: Steam [1996.04; Eighth Day Music 80010]
- Steam: Real Time [1996.04.05-06; Eighty Day: 1997; Atavistic: 2000]
- Joe Morris, Ken Vandermark, Hans Poppel: Like Rays [1996.06; Knitting Factory Works 224: 1998]
- The Vandermark 5: Single Piece Flow [1996.08.10-11; Atavistic 47: 1997]
- Fred Anderson/DKV Trio: Fred Anderson/DKV Trio [1996.12.03; Okkadisk 12014: 1997]
- AALY Trio/Ken Vandermark: Hidden in the Stomach [Silkheart 149: 1998.12.18]
- DKV Trio: DKV Live [1996.12.26; Okkadisk 100001: 1997]
- Boxhead Ensemble: Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back [Atavistic: 1997]
- NRG Ensemble: Bejazzo Gets a Facelift [Atavistic 73: 1997]
- The Crown Royals: All Night Burner [1995.11.11, 1997.02.08-09; Estrus: 1997]
- DKV Trio: Baraka [1997.02.17-19; Okkadisk 12012: 1997]
- DK3: Neutrons [Quarterstick 48: 1997.08.12]
- Peter Brötzmann: The Chicago Octet/Tentet [3CD] [1997.01.29, 1997.09.16-17; Okkadisk 2022: 1998]
- The Vandermark 5: Target or Flag [1997.10.25-26; Atavistic 106: 1998]
- Boxhead Ensemble: The Last Place to Go [Secretly Canadian: 1998; Atavistic: 1998]
- Pinetop Seven: Rigging the Toplights [Atavistic: 1998] -- guest
- Jeb Bishop: 98 Duets [Wobbly Rail 4: 1998] -- plays on 2 tracks
- Gastr del Sol: Camoufleur [Drag City: 1998] -- plays on 1 track
- AALY Trio + Ken Vandermark: Stumble [1998.01.17; Wobbly Rail 2: 1998]
- Tripleplay (Ken Vandermark, Nate McBride, Curt Newton): Expansion Slang [1998.04.16-17; Boxholder 6: 2000]
- Joe Morris With DKV Trio: Deep Telling [1998.04.30; Okkadisk 12027: 1999]
- The Crown Royals: Funky-Do [1998.05.04-05; Estrus 1255: 1999]
- Ken Vandermark's Joe Harriott Project: Straight Lines [1998.09; Atavistic 115: 1999.10.19]
- DKV Trio: Live in Wels & Chicago 1998 [2CD] [1998.11.20-21; Okkadisk 12030: 1999]
- Misha Mengelberg: Two Days in Chicago [2CD] [1998.10.11-12; Hatology 535: 1999] -- play son 2 tracks
- Alan Licht & Loren Mazzacane Connors: Hoffman Estates [Drag City 151: 1998.12.01] -- guest
- The Vandermark 5: Simpatico [1998.12.12-13; Atavistic 107: 1999]
- Jim O'Rourke: Eureka [Drag City] -- plays on 1 track
- Simon Joyner: The Lousy Dance [Atavistic: 1999] -- guest
- Superchunk: Come Pick Me Up [Merge: 1999] -- guest
- Ken Vandermark's Sound in Action Trio: Design in Time [1999.07.06-07; Delmark 516: 1999.10.26]
- Paul Lytton & Ken Vandermark: English Suites [2CD] [1999.01.11; Wobbly Rail 9: 2000]
- AALY Trio With Ken Vandermark: Live at the Glenn Miller Cafe [1999.03; Wobbly Rail 8: 1999]
- No 99 [5CD] [1999.04.08-10; Entartete Kunst 2120: 2000] -- live from No Music Festival 1999, various artists
- Pandelis Karayorgis, Nate McBride, Ken Vandermark: No Such Thing [1999.04.14-15; Boxholder: 2001]
- Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet: Stone/Water [1999.05.23; Okkadisk 12032: 2000]
- Common Rider: Last Wave Rockers [Lookout 226: 1999.06.01] -- guest
- AALY Trio/DKV Trio: Double or Nothing [1999.09.23; Okkadisk 12035: 2002]
- The Vandermark 5: Burn the Incline [1999.12.09-10; Atavistic 121]
- Witches & Devils: At the Empty Bottle [Knitting Factory Works 282: 2000]
- Spaceways Incorporated: Thirteen Cosmic Standards by Sun Ra & Funkadelic [2000.01; Atavistic 120: 2000.07.18]
- Territory Band-1: Transatlantic Bridge [2000.02.03-04; Okkadisk 12040: 2001]
- AALY Trio With Ken Vandermark: I Wonder If I Was Screaming [2000.03; Crazy Wisdom: 2000]
- School Days: Crossing Division [2000.03.09-10; Okkadisk 12037: 2000]
- Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet Plus 2: Broken English [2000.07.03-04; Okkadisk 12043: 2002]
- Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet Plus 2: Short Visit to Nowhere [2000.07.03-04; Okkadisk 12044: 2002]
- The Nomads: Up-Tight [Sympathy for the Record Industry: 2001; White Jazz: 2001] -- plays on 1 track
- Chamber Strings: Month of Sundays [Bobsled: 2001] -- guest
- The Vandermark 5: Acoustic Machine [2001.01.10-11; Atavistic 128]
- Territory Band-2: Atlas [2001.02.15-16; Okkadisk 12050: 2002]
- DKV Trio: Trigonometry [2CD] [2001.03.24, 2001.03.31; Okkadisk 12042: 2002]
- Carlo Actis Dato: USA Tour/April 2001/Live [2001.04; Splasc(h) 520: 2002] -- plays on 3 tracks
- The Vandermark 5: Free Jazz Classics Vols. 1 & 2 [2CD] [2000.Spring, 2001.Spring; Atavistic 137: 2002.09.10]
- Portastatic Featuring Ken Vandermark & Tim Mulvenna: The Perfect Little Door [2001.05.12-13; Merge 210: 2001]
- School Days: In Our Times [2001.11.24-26; Okkadisk 12041: 2002]
- Ken Vandermark: Two Days in December [2CD] [2001.12.03-05; Wobbly Rail 12: 2002]
- Zu: Igneo [2001.12.12-15; Amanita: 2002] -- Jeb Bishop and Fred Lonberg-Holm also appear
- Yakuza: Way of the Dead [Century Media: 2002] -- plays on 1 track
- Lord High Fixers: The Beginning of the End -- The End of the Beginning [In the Red: 2000] -- guest
- Sinister Luck Ensemble: Anniversary [Perishable: 2002] -- guest
- School Days/The Thing: The Music of Norman Howard [Anagram: 2002]
- FME: Live at the Glenn Miller Cafe Stockholm - Feb. 27, 2002 [2002.02.27; Okkadisk 10007: 2002]
- Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul [Atavistic 132: 2002.05.07]
- Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Dual Pleasure [2002.07.08-09; Smalltown Supersound 68: 2003.05.30]
- Ken Vandermark: Furniture Music [2002.08.12-19; Okkadisk: 2003]
- The Vandermark 5: Airports for Light [2002.08.22-23; Atavistic 140: 2003.03.18]
- Free Fall (Ken Vandermark, Ingebright Håker Flaten, Håvard Wiik): Furnace [2002.10.16-17; Wobbly Rail 13: 2003]
- Paul Lytton: [?] [Okkadisk: forthcoming]
- Gold Sparkle Band + Ken Vandermark: [?] [?: forthcoming]
- Territory Band-3: [?] [Okkadisk: forthcoming]
- Ken Vandermark/Brian Dibblee: Duets [2002.01.20, 2003.01.24; Future Reference 2: 2003]
Total records in list above:
94 (45 in house, 0 from other sources)
The following records are by artists closely related to Vandermark, but do
not include Vandermark performances.
- Liquid Soul: Liquid Soul [1995.03.02-03; Ark 21 54573: 1996.10.29] -- Mars Williams
- Georg Gräwe Quartet (Frank Gratkowski, Kent Kessler, Hamid Drake): Melodie und Rhythmus [1997.05; Okkadisk 12024]
- Jeb Bishop Trio (Kent Kessler, Tim Mulvenna): Jeb Bishop Trio [1997.11.29; Okkadisk 12029: 1999]
- Liquid Soul: Make Some Noise [Ark 21 10021: 1998.05.05]
- Jeb Bishop/Sebi Tramontana: Chicago Defenders [2000; Wobbly Rail 11: 2002]
- Liquid Soul: Here's the Deal [Shanachie 5065: 2000.03.14]
- Triage: Premium Plastics [Solitaire 4025: 2001.04]
- Jeb Bishop Trio/Quartet (Kent Kessler, Tim Mulvenna, Jeff Parker): Afternoons [2000.07.24-25; Okkadisk 12039: 2001]
- Kent Kessler: Bull Fiddle [2001.06.06; Okkadisk 12038]
- Boxhead Ensemble: Two Brothers [Atavistic 126: 2001.08.21]
- Liquid Soul: Evolution [Shanachie 5095: 2002.10.08]
- XMARSX: XMARSX [Atavistic 138: 2002.09.10]
- Triage: Twenty Minute Cliff [Okkadisk 12045: 2003]
- Boxhead Ensemble: Quartets [Atavistic 136: 2003.10.07]
Total records in list above:
14 (3 in house, 0 from other sources)
- Seth Tisue's Ken Vandermark
- Official Ken Vandermark Website.
- Okkadisk Ken
Vandermark Page: plus 10+ interview/article links (see below). The
linked album listings mostly have useful reviews also.
- MacArthur Foundation: list of
musicians who have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships:
Milton Babbitt, Ran Blake, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, John C. Eaton,
Osvaldo Golijov, John Harbison, Stephen Hough, Ali Akbar Khan, Steve Lacy,
George Lewis, Edgar Meyer, Conlon Nancarrow, George Perle, Bernice Johnson
Reagon, Max Roach, George Russell, Gunther Schuller, Ralph Shapey, Bright
Sheng, Cecil Taylor, Ken Vandermark (1999), Marion Williams, Charles Wuorinen.
- Billions Corp.
Ken Vandermark Page:
- Recording Jazz: A
Questionable Practice? (or, A Call for Re-Examination): by Stu
- Interviews and Articles:
- Ken Vandermark Interviews Hamid Drake.
- 2003.07.08: Seattle Weekly: Millennial Mingus, by Mark D. Fefer.
This goes down the race rathole, entering through a door opened by Stanley
"Like his contemporary Dave Douglas, he takes part in dozens of highly
disparate bands, throws out a remarkably prodigious output, and has
the somewhat academic gravitas that arts grant-makers love. . . . But
Vandermark comes off as less conceptual and pretentious than Douglas;
even as he imposes a deep rigor on his band mates, he seems to foster
that churchlike abandon so powerful in Mingus' unit. His music may not
be as original or reach as far as that of Douglas or other current
composers, but it has a polish and directness that stems partly from
humility. It's hard to gainsay the modesty of a bandleader who hires a
second guy in the group on his own instrument (the excellent
saxophonist Dave Rempis) and gives him most of the solos."
- 2003.06: Jazz Times: Focus, by Christopher Porter.
Lots of interesting background, but especially interesting is the
Sonny Rollins discussion. Early copies of Airports for Light
came with a bonus disc of Rollins tunes. KV: "I think Rollins has been
so overlooked as a member of the avant-garde. A lot of people don't
give him the credit he deserves for pushing the tenor saxophone into
very new directions. The way he changed the tonal qualities of the
horn, the expressiveness of the horn, is really forward-thinking, and
there really aren't many people who have adopted those kinds of
directions that he was using. Everyone talks about Rollins and how
great he is, but they don't really put him in the category of a John
Coltrane." In particular, he recommends Our Man in Jazz (RCA).
- 2003.03: Jazz Weekly: A Fireside Chat With Ken Vandermark: by Fred Jung.
"My motivation has really been, in many ways, to expand the audience
through touring, performing, trying to get the music out to people,
being willing to talk to people about it and help them see that if you
like Fugazi or if you like Sonic Youth, you can like the Peter
Brötzmann Tentet. You can like The Vandermark 5. You can like any of
this music that we work with because like the stuff that they may be
familiar with, it is music about serious passion and commitment to
- 2003.01: Tomajazz: by José Francisco Tapiz.
- 2002.12: All About Jazz: Jazz Workhorse: by Pat Sisson.
- 2002.02: All About Jazz: by Brian Carpenter:
"But I wanted to be a musician and in high school when I was a junior,
I switched to tenor saxophone. From that point on, I've basically been
self-taught. I took some fundamental lessons when I just first picked
up the horn, and then I took some summer lessons with George Garzone,
actually. That was important to me, especially for the music he played
with The Fringe. I went and saw that band a lot when I was in high
school. That was very instrumental in opening up my mind to a lot of
different things, musically.
For the most part, I'm not really schooled in a conventional way. I
didn't go to a conservatory, I didn't study composition with anybody,
and for me personally . . . that's been the most useful way to go
about what I'm trying to do. I think that in some ways it's slower,
but you end up solving problems your own way, which gives you a kind
of -- hopefully -- more personal and unique stamp on what it is you're
trying to do."
On the V5: "I kind of think of it as sort of my version of the Mingus
group, with Dolphy. Mingus brought in arrangements of tunes that he
liked by other people, like Ellington, and then he wrote music for the
band and no one else wrote compositions or arrangements for the
band. But they obviously all -- like Dolphy or Jaki Byard -- added an
immense amount to what the band sounded like, and what the band did,
and how it played."
- 2002? Dusted: Ken Vandermark's Concept-Jazz, by Hank Shteamer.
On "Ken Vandermark's latest trio of recordings: Double or
Nothing [AALY Trio/DKV Trio, Okkadisk 2002], Two Days in
December [Wobbly Rail 2002], and Atlas [Territory Band-2,
Okkadisk 2002]." Compares Vandermark with Dave Douglas and John
Zorn -- privileged (or lucky) white guys with a knack for concept
"I once read an interview with Jim O'Rourke where he described his
records as 'lab reports.' Like a traditional scientist, he considers
each musical project like an experiment with specific dependent and
independent variables. The music he releases, then, is simply a public
statement of his findings. Science is a useful analogy for what
Vandermark is doing. Any follower of his work knows that his liner
notes always communicate the parameters and goals of a given
project/experiment. This is great, as far as I'm concerned, because it
allows the listener to judge a release against its creator's
intentions. Not all of Vandermark's releases are spectacular (among
these three, Atlas comes closest), but they all have a very clear
artistic purpose. The same is true for the output of Zorn and
Douglas. Sometimes these men work with stifling concepts, but they
need to be recognized for what they are: some of their generation's
foremost musical researchers."
- 2000.11-12: Magnet: The Professional: by Bill Meyer.
Has some details about how he's spending his MacArthur money.
- 1999.08.06: Boston Globe: Sounding the Genius in Jazz: by Bob Blumenthal.
Post-MacArthur. "Vandermark has long felt that the future for boundary-testing
jazz lay with the alternative rock audience, a notion he has found confirmed
by his recent experiences. 'There has been a major shift in recent years,'
he said. 'Eighty percent of our audience is now between 20 and 35 and out
of an alternative background, whether we're playing in Philadelphia or
- 1999.07.10: Jazz Institute of Chicago, by Michael Witt.
"They [the MacArthur Foundation] said the way they worked it this time
they wanted to give it to somebody younger instead of someone who had
obviously proven themselves over decades of work and see what would
happen, and I feel a lot of responsibility to do something meaningful
with that. Knowing that guys like Max Roach and Cecil Taylor,
[Anthony] Braxton, Ornette [Coleman], Steve Lacy . . . I mean, literally
when they were my age they were changing the face of the music. I feel
an obligation to try to push myself to aspire to do something like
that. So, yeah, it's pretty amazing to be included in that list."
Going through his groups, KV mentions one I haven't heard of: "And
there's a trio with Adam Vida and Liz Payne that really doesn't have a
name. We've been playing for the last half year, working on stuff
together, and that's completely improvised."
And more: "The Chicago Bridge Unit?we play all the time. It's kind of
the core group of people I work with, which is Kent Kessler and Tim
Mulvenna. And it's really great to be able to play as a trio with
those guys because we can open up and explore the dynamics between the
three instruments and the three approaches to playing. We play like
once a week with that group. There's a group called the Signal To
Noise Unit with Kevin Drumm, who plays kind of a prepared guitar,
table-top guitar, and a percussionist named Steve Butters. That comes
more out of like an AMM tradition, stuff like Keith Rowe and John
Tilbury, in that it's very texturally-based. It's not
melodically-based in any conventional way. That's a great group for me
to work with because Kevin spends most of his time working that
territory, so when I play with them, he's really pushing me hard."
Witt mentions a George Clinton show with Mats Gustafsson: "Mats
played, and it was me, Hamid Drake, this bass player, Nate McBride
playing electric. Yeah, that Funkadelic shit is totally amazing. So, I
listen to a lot of that, and generally stuff that deals with
compositions in jazz. I listen to stuff from the mid-sixties on, going
backwards. I'm a big fan of what they call 'West Coast' jazz. Stuff
that came out of L.A. like in the fifties. And that's kind of a weird
thing because it's a total misnomer. A lot of guys on the west coast,
hard drivin' players like Harold Land, Curtis Counce? I'm a huge fan
of that because, compositionally, it's very involved."
- 1999.06.23: Chicago Tribune: What will Ken Vandermark do with $265,000? Motel rooms on tour would be nice, by Howard Reich.
[Google cached copy, since the original link appears to be broken.]
Excerpt: "In the beginning, he couldn't find anyone to play with, he
couldn't find many gigs, paid or unpaid, so for the first few years he
just practiced like crazy and wrote music non-stop, because there
wasn't much else for him to do," says Ellen Major, Vandermark's wife
since 1996 and a pediatrician at Children's Memorial
Hospital. . . . By spring of 1992, Vandermark was ready to move back
to Boston in defeat. But Chicago musicians Kent Kessler and Michael
Zerang persuaded him to stay, their partnership eventually forming the
core of what would become the Vandermark Quartet.
Another: Though it's difficult for any musician to establish roots in
a new city, Vandermark's difficulties in part may have been because of
the still nascent quality of his musicmaking. Granted, there was no
denying the sheer size of his sound and the bravura of his technique
during shows he played with Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble. But the
relentlessly loud, rhythmically repetitive nature of Vandermark's work
at the time pointed to a musician hungry to make a splash but
seemingly less interested in developing a variety of ideas in
sound. It wasn't until the mid-'9Os that Vandermark began to show a
more substantial expressive range.
- 1999.06: Stomp & Stammer: Making His Vandermark: The Vandermark Five Make Jazz With an Amazingly Voracious Appetite, by Thomas Peake.
- 1999.01: Down Beat: Freedom Fighters: Ken Vandermark & Joe McPhee Compare Notes on Creative Music Renaissances, by John Corbett.
KV: "I grew up in a family where my parents, particularly my father,
were listening to jazz all the time. I wasn't really exposed to
contemporary popular music like rock until I went to college. As a
kid, I went to lots and lots and lots of live concerts. I must have
gone to Lulu White's in Boston, where I grew up, more than once a
week. Saw Johnny Griffin, the Art Ensemble, Benny Goodman, Art Blakey
a bunch of times. It was also important that my father never
categorized things at all. We'd listen to Stravinsky, then Duke
Ellington, then Monk, then Sly and the Family Stone. It was all music,
just music in the house."
"I think that a lot of musicians are inspired by other art forms. I
love the paintings of Franz Kline. They had a retrospective here, and
I walked into that room with all those black-and-white paintings. I
said, I want to play like this!"
- 1998.SUMMER: Avant: Sweet Home Chicago, by Brian Marley.
Good early history; uptake on AACM.
- 1998.07: The Wire: by Jon Morgan.
- 1998.06.15: CMJ: The New Breed, by Tad Hendrickson.
- 1998.06.10: Lazaro Vega Interview.
- 1998.01.22: Lazaro Vega Interview.
"The people that came to see those concerts were either people who
were familiar with the kind of music already and had some kind of
background in listening to it, or they were younger listeners who were
more familiar with more experimental rock music that wanted to come
out and hear stuff. Their ears are open to more extended types of
sounds so they're not really put off by the fact that some of what we
do is pretty aggressive and noisy at times."
- 1997.04.04: Chicago Reader: Home of the Free, by Peter Margasak.
- 1997.05.11: Chicago Sun-Times: Keeping His Mark, by Lloyd Sachs.
"No one has a more voracious musical appetite. On a recent week,
Vandermark was listening to piano pieces by John Cage, Miles Davis'
fusion-charged Agharta, traditional Turkish clarinet music, the
neglected bop of '50s bassist Curtis Counce and a compilation by tenor
immortal Coleman Hawkins -- Vandermark's favorite player, not only for
his musical genius but also for his openness to and embrace of
changing styles through the years."
"The rock-driven Vandermark Quartet's 1993 CD, Big Head Eddie,
boasted savvy, swaggering salutes to George Clinton and Captain
Beefheart. More recently, Vandermark has played soul and R&B
instrumentals with the Crown Royals, alternative rock with the
Denison-Kimball Trio (including members of the Jesus Lizard) and
garage music with the Waste Kings."
- Carbin 14, #11.
KV: "Yeah. I actually like a lot of rock stuff but right now, at least
for me, there's not a lot of rock stuff happening that I'm enjoying
too much. I think in part because a lot of it is really
intellectualized, and I don't find it very enjoyable; it's not very
visceral right now."
- 1995: Chum #2: The Hardest Working Man in Chicago, by Dan Kelly.
- Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Dual Pleasure:
- Portastatic With Ken Vandermark and Tim Mulvenna: The Perfect Little Door EP:
- School Days: In Our Times:
- Spaceways Inc.: 13 Cosmic Standards:
- Vandermark 5: Target or Flag:
- Vandermark 5: Simpatico:
- Vandermark 5: Burn the Incline:
- Focus Mag, by Virginia Reed.
"Not since the abundance of mid-'60s Mile Davis' titles, or Ornette
Coleman's far-reaching sessions a few years later, has an
improvisational artist dealt with a quantity -- with quality -- of
projects in such a short span."
- Pop Matters, by Roni Shapira.
- Vandermark 5: Free Jazz Classics Vol. 1 & 2:
- Vandermark 5: Airports for Light:
- Dusted, by Jason Bivins.
- Pitchfork, by Dominique Leone, Rating 7.2.
"The good news for folks not normally on the jazz bus is that
Vandermark's records -- with this band and without -- tend to offer
outsiders a helping hand. His own playing can be fierce, or noisy, and
his band is always top-notch, but the tunes are hardly off-putting. In
fact, in a way, The Vandermark 5 are a perfect bridge for rock fans
raised on the notion that jazz is the music of a secret society filled
with a thousand guys named Bud or Johnny."
- Ken Vandermark's Joe Harriott Project: Straight Lines:
- Ken Vandarmark's Sound in Action Trio: Design in Time: