International Front comes from a good and complex trio of younger out jazz musicians who had a hand in bringing about Chicago's jazz rebirth in the 1990s. Bassist Kent Kessler, drummer Curt Newton, and reedsman Ken Vandermark comprise the Steelwool Trio, who perform nine Vandermark compositions, each of which are a dedication to folks including bassist Jimmy Blanton, the legendary Sun Ra, and Okkadisk executive producer Bruno Johnson. From the hip, rhythmic battery of "Tough Sledding," to the out soloing showcase that is "Tag," to the sped up, straight-walking "No Sleeves No Service," this album is chock-full of music that is well worth your jazz dollar. Highlights of the consistently excellent soloing include Vandermark's bass clarinet action during "Bowling Alley Roughs" and "Another Orbit," the wide and warm resonation of Kessler's bass at the opening of "Otherwise," and Newton's melodic solo at the front of "Dime Store Novel." Sections of this album are undeniably out, yet are balanced by other sections that feature these musicians at their straightest. Also, the amount of time Vandermark spends on an under-recorded strong suit of his -- clarinets -- is a real treat, including the bluesy, bass clarinet-led "Wrenches."
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne