Ken Vandermark life and biography

Ken Vandermark picture, image, poster

Ken Vandermark biography

Date of birth : 1964-09-22
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Warwick, Rhode Island
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-06-30
Credited as : Jazz composer, clarinet player, The AALY trio

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Ken Vandermark is an American jazz composer and saxophone and clarinet player.

The musical career of tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark began during his college years in Montreal and then continued in Boston, where he led the trio Lombard Street. After moving to Chicago in 1989, he joined both rock (Denison-Kimball Three, Flying Luttenbachers) and jazz (Fred Anderson, Peter Brotzmann, Paul Lovens, Paul Lytton, Joe McPhee, Joe Morris, etc) groups. The Vandermark Quartet (Ken Vandermark, Daniel Scanlan, Kent Kessler, Michael Zerang) was his first major avenue of expression. Big Head Eddie (february 1993 - Platypus, 1993) and Solid Action (may 1994 - Platypus, 1994) sound more like progressive-rock than contemporary jazz and the ambiguity will remain for most of his career.

Vandermark 5 was the new group formed by Ken Vandermark. They play visceral free-jazz at neurotic speed. Jeb Bishop on trombone, Kent Kessler on bass, Tim Mulvenna on drums and Mars Williams on reeds provide fantastic backing to Single Piece Flow (Atavistic, 1997), an album that runs the gamut from bebop to jazz-rock to free-jazz (and offers an unlikely fusion of these styles in Careen). Fence and The Mark Inside were its highlights. Target Dr Flag (october 1997 - Atavistic, 1998) is an impressive tornado that dramatically upped the ante (Attempted Not Known). Simpatico (december 1998 - Atavistic, 1999) is even more cohesive. Fact And Fiction and Vent have the sound and the fury of Flying Luttenbachers.

The DKV Trio (percussionist Hamid Drake, Kessler and Vandermark) represented Vandermakr's free-jazz alter ego: Baraka (february 1997) contained the 35-minute Baraka.

The Steelwood Trio (basically, the DKV Trio with drummer Curt Newton replacing Drake) recorded International Front (september 1994), with Tag, Another Orbit and No Sleeves No Service.

Vandermark frequently collaborated with the AALY Trio (tenor saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Kjell Nordeson, drummer Peter Janson): Hidden in the Stomach (december 1996), Stumble (january 1998), that contains Vandermark's Why I Don't Go Back , Live at the Glenn Miller Cafe (march 1999), I Wonder If I Was Screaming (march 2000).

The quintet also shines on the quintet's fourth album, Burn The Incline (december 1999 - Atavistic, 2000), although the leader steals the show with a performance that is worthy of Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp. The music runs the gamut from ferocious funk (Distance, Roulette, Ground) to dreamlike jams (Late Night Wait Around, The Trouble Is).

Sound In Action Trio is a trio formed with veteran Robert Barry and Tim Mulvenna on percussions. Design In Time (july 1999), heavy on covers, is more than anything else a display of the saxophonist's bravura, but also a pioneering work in employing two drummers. Gate (july 2003) continued the experiment, with another repertory of (six) covers and (five) originals.

Straight Lines (september 1998 - Atavistic, 2000) is a tribute to Joe Harriott.

School Days is a quartet with Bishop devoted to simple, sprightly music that debuted on Crossing Division (march 2000) and live In Our Times (november 2001).

Territory Band was yet another project, devoted to chamber jazz and big-band jazz for spectacular line-ups (Jim Baker on piano, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Kent Kessler on bass, Axel Doerner on trumpet, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Dave Rempis on saxophones, Paul Lytton and Tim Mulvenna on percussions). Transatlantic Bridge (february 2000) contained four lengthy jams dedicated to abstract painters: the 14-minute Collage, the 21-minute RM, the 17-minute Mobile, the 18-minute Stabile. Atlas (february 2001) repeated the same formula with the 13-minute Add and Subtract, the 16-minute Neiger, the 12-minute Catalog, the 18-minute Now for a line-up of Baker, Bishop, Doerner, Kessler, Lonberg-Holm, Lytton, Mulverna, Rempis, and newcomers Kevin Drumm on electronics, Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba, Fredrik Ljungkvist on reeds. Neiger and Now are feasts of glitchy electroacoustic improvisation. Map Theory (september 2002) was at the same time more accessible and more unpredictable, although again structured as four lengthy pieces (the 12-minute Towards Abstraction for Gil Evans, the 16-minute A Certain Light for Peter Kowald, the 16-minute Framework for Rob Vandermark, the 19-minute Image As Text for Richard Hull) for chamber orchestra (Baker, Bishop, Doerner, Kessler, Lonberg-Holm, Ljungkvist, Rempis, Lytton, Drumm, and newcomers Per-ke Holmlander on tuba and Paal Nilssen-Love on percussion). Drumm's role was becoming more relevant. The Territory Band 4 (Vandermark, Doerner, Bishop, Ljungkvist, Rempis, Lonberg-Holm, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and Lasse Marhaug at the laptop) performed live at Chicago's "Cultural Center" in september 2004. Its Company Switch (september 2004) was another double-CD album but dispensed with Drumm's electronics (Killing Floor, Local Works, Franja). The Territory Band 5's triple-CD A New Horse for the White House (october 2005) featured Fredrik Ljungkvist, Dave Rempis, Axel Doerner, Johannes Bauer, Per-Ake Holmlander, Jim Baker, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Lasse Marhaug, Kent Kessler, Paul Lytton, Paal Nilssen-Love, and offered four lengthy postmodernist games: Fall With A Vengence, Untitled Fiction, Corrosion, Cards. (The third CD includes live versions of the same pieces).

Real Time (april 1996 - Eighth Day Music, 1996), by a piano quartet called Steam, is a homage to be bop.

Witches & Devils (Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams on reeds, Jim Baker on keyboards, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Kent Kessler on bass and Steve Hunt on drums) was documented live on At The Empty Bottle (august 1997), that contains devastating versions of three Albert Ayler compositions. Expansion Slang (april 1998 - Boxholder, 1998), credited to Tripleplay, is a homage to Don Cherry (includes the 20-minute In Sequence).

Spaceways Incorporated is a trio with bassist Nate McBride and percussionist Hamid Drake. Thirteen Cosmic Standards (january 2000 - Atavistic, 2000) is a set of compositions by Sun Ra and George Clinton, which, in a sense, confesses the roots of Vandermark's schizophrenic music. Version Soul (august 2001) is a set of nine originals dedicated to soul and funk masters. Radiale (september 2003) was a collaboration with the Italian group Zu.

The double-disc English Suites (november 1997 - Wobbly Rail, 2000) is a collaboration with Paul Lytton.

The Vandermark 5's Acoustic Machine (january 2001 - Atavistic, 2001) is another solid, while conventional, work-out, whose jams are dedicated (as usual) to great musicians of the past. Stranger Blues, Auto Topography, Coast To Coast are smooth and engaging, but hardly revolutionary. License Complete is Jeb Bishop's show, and possibly the finest composition here. Fall to Grace, Close Enough, Wind Out are lengthy tests of Vandermark's mastery of jazz counterpoint.

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