Ken Vandermark convenes a fresh group of old and new collaborators | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Ken Vandermark convenes a fresh group of old and new collaborators 

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click to enlarge Ken Vandermark

Ken Vandermark

Petra Cvelbar

This autumn marks 30 years since Ken Vandermark moved to Chicago. The reedist plays tenor and baritone saxophones as well as B-flat and bass clarinets, and his staggering output—he’s put out six releases this year alone, one of them a five-disc set—can be divided and analyzed according to any number of metrics, including where he spent most of his time while producing the material. Early on, he mostly played in Chicago, gigging frequently around town in various ensembles. After the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a grant in 1999, he spent the funds trying to build an infrastructure for touring improvisers in the States. By the mid-00s, the money had run out, so he shifted focus to Europe—and for the next decade, he was out of town so much that it was easy to forget he still lived here. Vandermark is still filling up his passport with international stamps, but in the past five years he’s shown a renewed commitment to working with musicians based in North America, and he’s documented these projects with a series of releases collectively titled Momentum. The five-CD box set Momentum 4, released this summer by Vandermark’s Audiographic label, drills deep into his work as an improviser, displaying his ample resources in that arena. It compiles duets he made with pianist Kris Davis, electronic musician Ikue Mori, bassist William Parker, and percussionists Hamid Drake and Paul Lytton (the latter is English, but they recorded in Chicago). Depending on context and company, Vandermark can swing ferociously, shift and evolve his lines with dizzying speed, and generate musical forms that are both abstract and bracingly intense. The newest project, which debuts Thursday night at Elastic Arts, advances Vandermark’s interest in mixed materials. It’s called Momentum 5: Stammer Triptych, a name that applies to the handpicked ensemble as well as to the piece it will approach from three different angles. The musicians are a double quartet that includes Katinka Kleijn and Nick Macri on low strings; Tim Barnes and Claire Rousay on percussion; Damon Locks and Lou Mallozzi on recordings, samples, and electronics; and Vandermark and Mars Williams on reeds. Their stylistic breadth allows Vandermark to combine classical structures, free-jazz textures, electronic and acoustic rhythms, and manipulated text-based material. The instrumentalists will play the piece three times over the course of the night, swapping roles from one iteration to the next, while Vandermark revises the composition’s sequence of events like a film editor. Visual artist Kim Alpert will use two screens to simultaneously project prepared video and real-time manipulations of the video content.   v

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