Friday, May 27, 2011

Resonance Ensemble: Kafka In Flight

Resonance Ensemble (group)
Kafka In Flight (Not Two Records, 2011)
Ken Vandermark (sax, clarinet)
Mikolaj Trzaska (sax, clarinet)
Mark Tokar (bass)
Michael Zerang (drums)
Tim Daisy (drums)
Steve Swell (trombone)
Per -Ake Holmander (tuba)
Dave Rempis (sax)
Magnus Broo (trumpet)
Waclaw Zimpel (clarinet)

This is an album I have been waiting for since I read about it on Ken Vandermark's twitter feed a few months ago. The Resonance Ensemble is the brainchild of the great Chicago saxophonist, Ken Vandermark. In the similar vein to Peter Brotzmann's Tentet (which Vandermark is also a member), Resonance embarks on large scale compositions. But where PBT tend to move into the upper stratosphere in theory--Vandermark is keeping things within a linear pattern as far as the tone is concerned. There is a great deal of improvisation happening but its within the melody and rhythm of the writing.

Resonance Ensemble was first developed out of a series of concerts and studio sessions that were later recorded in 2008 (Live In Lviv) and then for the 10CD box (Resonance Box). What's remarkable is that as Vandermark states in the notes to this album, because of the size of the band and the various groups they lead and projects they participate in, its difficult to get any rehearsal time before live shows or recording. I don't think any of us would notice or care. Why you ask? Because the results are something truly unbelievable.

For the group's third album Kafka In Flight, recorded live in Poland, Vandermark guides the group with three lengthy pieces of jubilant free form that would make you feel as if Ellington, Coltrane, Cherry, Coleman, Blakey, Chambers (and take the your pick of the rest) had gotten together in your backyard. Kafka In Flight is smokin'. Unlike even Vandermark's main group (The Vandermark 5), Resonance Ensemble seem to enjoy mixing the past in a large bowl and coming up with interesting and riviting concoctions. The opener, "The Pier" is fast moving and allows for moments in which each member can contribute and expound on Vandermark's material. It's a real treasure of ideas that surface. The always incredible Tim Daisy delivers an excellent improvised mid-section, accompanied by a good portion of the horn section and Vandermark on clarinet, explore and exchange some intense possibilities but it works unbelievably well.

"Rope" is a bit more cinematic, led by some great performances from Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba (a rare instrument in modern free jazz) and Magnus Broo (trumpet). "Rope" moves from funky to experimental to comforting (so-to-speak) and gives the listener a lot to absorb. Michael Zerang and Tim Daisy are superb as they duel it out with sharp intersecting chant from each of the wind players. "Coal Marker" rounds out this hour long journey in style. It's the ensemble releasing all it's force into your speaker (and you better be able to deal with it). There are spontaneous moments that sees the group in unison but also exchanging circular rhythmic patterns. This is a group that somehow, despite little time together, knows exactly what the other is going to do and each is up for the challenge.

Kafka In Flight is an album and performance that is built around the ability of Ken Vandermark to write excellent material that is interchangeable for each member. You can picture most of these notes performed by different members and each coming up with a different result. But the result would still be amazing. Kafka In Flight is yet another step in the already legendary career of Ken Vandermark. While the first two albums are both hard to find and in the case of the boxed set--expensive--you should definitely seek out Kafka In Flight. It is well worth every avant garde fan's dollars. One of our Top Albums Of The 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Those were unforgettable events in Krakow! :) great review of a great album I had a pleasure to write about some time ago: