The Gold Sparkle Band has never had a problem being self-contained, but there is no law stating that the avant-garde jazz group can't bring in a guest on occasion -- which is exactly what happens on Brooklyn Cantos, a 2002 recording. The guest is reedman Ken Vandermark, who is featured on tenor sax and bass clarinet -- and this time, the Gold Sparkle Band is billed as "the Gold Sparkle Trio with Ken Vandermark." It isn't hard to understand why Gold Sparkle's 2002 lineup (alto saxman/clarinetist Charles Waters, bassist Adam Roberts and drummer Andrew Barker) would want to work with Vandermark; like Gold Sparkle, Vandermark obviously realizes that being avant-garde doesn't mean you have to be aimless -- that savoring the joys of spontaneity and improvisation doesn't mean you have to be unfocused. Actually, this inside/outside project is very focused; Waters, Roberts, Barker and Vandermark bring a real sense of purpose to material that ranges from the Ornette Coleman-ish "'Burg Girl" (as in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and the playful "Carpet Quarterbagger" to the dusky "Autumn Ever." There is plenty of abstraction, dissonance and self-indulgence on Brooklyn Cantos, but it is an intelligent, logical sort of self-indulgence -- it's the sort of self-indulgence in which Vandermark can go off an inspired tangent and everything works out well because Waters, Roberts and Barker have his back. Or perhaps Waters is the one going off on an inspired tangent; the point is that listeners can easily hear a strong sense of camaraderie throughout this pianoless session, and Vandermark does more than his part to make Brooklyn Cantos a respectable addition to Gold Sparkle's catalog.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson