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Ken Vandermark: Celebrating the Midwest School 

When: Fri., March 22, 9 p.m. and Sat., March 23, 8 p.m. 2013
Price: $15
Reedist Ken Vandermark has dedicated many a composition to the musicians who've influenced him. In a few cases he's added their tunes to the repertoire of one of his countless projects, and in the late 90s he led a short-lived band that played the songs of great British saxophonist Joe Harriott. But he's more likely to write music openly inspired by his influences—Jimmy Giuffre, Sun Ra, George Clinton—than he is to flat-out cover their material. Last year, though, Vandermark launched this nine-piece band to tackle the compositions of four midwestern greats: Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, and Anthony Braxton (all Chicagoans and key members of the AACM), plus Saint Louis reedist Julius Hemphill (a key figure in that city’s Black Artists Guild). The group debuted last June at Elastic, and returns this weekend to play two shows. Recordings from this summer demonstrate how vibrantly Vandermark has transformed nimble small-group themes for a larger band, whether adding brassy heft to the minimal funk groove of Hemphill’s indelible "Dogon A.D." or richly reharmonizing an untitled tango Threadgill wrote for his innovative 70s trio Air. The nonet’s version of Braxton’s march "6C" starts with just drummer Tim Daisy, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and bassist Nate McBride playing—the same instrumentation as the original 1976 recording—but then Vandermark boosts the energy by bringing in the rest of his powerful ensemble. The five members not yet named are cornetist Josh Berman, reedists Nick Mazzarella, Mars Williams, and Dave Rempis, and violist Jen Clare Paulson (who's subbing for vibist Jason Adasiewicz, sidelined after surgery for a herniated disc). —Peter Margasak

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