KEN VANDERMARK | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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In Musician, Dan Kraus's new documentary about saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, there's a moment when he sings an extraordinarily complex figure to his band--and then the film cuts to the band playing it back at him. Though Vandermark's a veteran free improviser, "free" doesn't mean "left up to chance"--even in solo performance, he always has a frame of reference. On Furniture Music (Okka Disk, 2003), his only solo recording, each piece has a dedication that suggests what that frame might be: It's not hard to grasp the connection between the thick, gradually evolving bass-clarinet tones of "Color Fields to Darkness" and the paintings of Mark Rothko. And "Melodica," a clarinet piece dedicated to fellow improviser Joe McPhee, has a soulful warmth that's more than just a tribute to the deep feeling in McPhee's playing--this is some of the most emotional music Vandermark has ever made. Here he'll play a half-hour solo concert before a preview screening of Musician, then join Kraus to answer questions about the film. Vandermark also appears at the Hideout's Immediate Sound series on Wednesday, playing in the Frame Quartet (with Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nate McBride, and Tim Daisy) and spinning a DJ set devoted to female vocalists. a 8:15 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2600 or 312-575-8000, $9, $7 students. A --Bill Meyer

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