The Vandermark 5 / Ken Vandermark

Free Jazz Classics, Vols. 3- 4

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The Vandermark 5's Free Jazz Classics, Vols. 3 & 4 is the last double-disc set in the Free Jazz Classics series, according to Ken Vandermark's liner notes. The two artists Vandermark focuses on here are Sonny Rollins -- particularly his "Alfie Suite" -- and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The Rollins set was previously issued in a limited-edition double disc of the V5's Airports for Light, and the Kirk set was included in limited-edition double packaging with Elements of Style...Exercises in Surprise. Both these albums were recorded live at Chicago's Empty Bottle in 2003 and 2004, respectively. The "Six for Rollins" disc (inspired by Archie Shepp's Four for Trane) is tight, solidly arranged, and the tune selection is great. It opens with "The Bridge"; the interplay between Vandermark, saxophonist Dave Rempis, and trombonist Jeb Bishop is remarkable. Another notable is the second part of the "Freedom Suite," included here, and the "Alfie Suite" offers a keen view of the deep listening that occurs in this band. The opening part of the cut with Bishop's slow, leisurely trombone solo working through the melody brings out the blues underneath the compositional sketch, as Vandermark enters slowly, harmonizing quietly on the changes. The real blowing begins at about seven minutes, and the swinging blues as it walks the edges of free playing is astonishing. The Kirk disc, entitled "Free Kings -- The Music of Roland Kirk," concentrates equally on the pre-Kirk Mercury, and Emarcy period material -- Vandermark assembled suites from the We Free Kings and Rip, Rig and Panic recordings -- and chose select other material from the Atlantic years such as "The Inflated Tear," "Black and Crazy Blues," and "Silverization/ Volunteered Slavery." The two discs are very different in mood and style with the latter being less, intense perhaps, but still looser, riskier, and genial. Bishop's solo on "Black and Crazy Blues," is pure hard bop-blues swinging. Suites Vandermark arranged are wonderful, full of surprise and great humor -- something you wouldn't expect from him, but you did from Kirk. If you didn't have a chance to pick these up on their original release, now's your chance. This set is not to be missed.

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