Friday, January 27, 2006

Sound machine

"Acoustic Machine," Atavistic, from reedist Ken Vandermark and The Vandermark 5 is a series of seven Vandermark compositions, liberally improvised on and each honoring a notable musical forerunner, among them Lester Young, Elvin Jones, Stan Getz and Archie Shepp. Generally interspersed with short connecting pieces (the opener could back a film noir), these aren't cover performances or imitative, but rather use music informed by the playing of the musicians to which they're dedicated as jumping off points for the band's own original flights.

"Stranger Blues" actually makes me think of Young, one of the saxophone's most soulful blues players, and "Coast to Coast" is remindful of Getz's cool jazz sound as well. "Auto Topography," the piece honoring Shepp, sounds more like it's straight out of Albert Ayler's book, although Archie himself could sound pretty Ayleresque back in the day. "Fall to Grace," the song for Jones, resembles something from William Parker's quartets, meaning it's outside yet not too outside. There's plenty of free improvising and modern hard bop playing contained within, but the music also swings in places and hints at avant-garde classical elsewhere.

Besides Vandermark, who plays tenor sax and clarinets, and Dave Rempis, alto and tenor saxes, both consistently inventive, trombonist Jeb Bishop stands out. Bassist Kent Kessler does an impressive job holding the freer pieces together and drummer Tim Mulvenna completes the pianoless group. An interesting disk throughout.

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