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Vandermark 5/Atomic - Vandermark 5/Atomic, The Vortex, London, 16/09/2010 Rating: 4 out of 5 There was a more than usually expectant atmosphere for this double-header.Either band would be an enticing prospect but their pairing made this show unmissable.

Vandermark 5/Atomic

The Vortex, London
16/09/10

Vandermark 5: Ken Vandermark (tenor sax and Bb clarinet), Tim Daisy (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics), Dave Rempis (alto and tenor sax)

Atomic: Magnus Broo (trumpet), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass), Fredrik Ljungkvist (saxophone), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Havard Wiik (piano)
There was a more than usually expectant atmosphere for this double-header, which bought to the shallow confines of the Vortex stage two quite distinct but essentially complimentary jazz ensembles in Atomic and Vandermark 5. Either band would be an enticing prospect, but their pairing made this show unmissable.

Vandermark 5 opened proceedings, which seemed to take a few punters aback, yet Ken Vandermark gave Atomic’s drummer Paal Nilssen-Love full credit for being the main enabler of the tour, and it’s worth pointing out that Atomic are almost as well-established on the European Jazz scene as Vandermark 5 are in America. The Norwegian/Swedish quintet was formed in 1999, only three years after Vandermark 5’s first recordings, and have (at least) seven albums of their own to draw from.

So, Vandermark 5 kicked things off with what Vandermark described as “something old”, namely “Friction (for György Ligeti)” from their 2008 album “Beat Reader”. For most bands this would count as new material, but the fearsomely productive Ken Vandermark has released two further Vandermark 5 albums since then, and the rest of this set was comprised of all new compositions, from a songbook workshopped specifically for the tour during sessions held in the bands’ native Chicago back in August.

“Friction” progressed quickly through passages that strung stridently bowed, amplified cello from Lomberg-Holm into a dialogue between Vandermark and drummer Tim Daisy, a brief drum feature, and an expansive exchange between the twinned saxophones, bass and cello, all of which merely served to whet the appetite for the main, hard-driving body of the composition. Vandermark and Dave Rempis were wonderfully well attuned, with the contrast between Vandermark’s gruff tonality and Rempis’ generally more cutting sound being a key component in the group identity.

The first new piece was “Fables of Facts” (or “Fax”, perhaps), an allusion to a great composition by Charles Mingus, three of whose albums currently feature in Vandermark’s blogged playlist. “Location (for Philip Guston)” came next, Vandermark switching to clarinet for one particularly memorable passage, cross-cutting grooves scored by the plucked strings of Kessler and Lonberg-Holm, the resulting friction leading into a combustible collective climax.

Finally, “Leap Revisited” was a classic example of Vandermark’s cellular approach to composition that again took the group through its paces, beginning with Fred Lonberg-Holm’s astringent (and very loud) processed cello solo to a bebop interlude near the close which paid homage to (I think) Lester Young’s “Lester Leaps In”, for a fresh take on the “I Got Rhythm” variations tradition .

Vandermark’s music is steeped in a breadth of such identifiably American traditions. That of Atomic, on the other hand, is characterised by a peculiarly European clarity of tone, almost completely shorn of blues or soul inflections. For some listeners (and I confess I’m one) this may make the group somewhat less immediately appealing, but they worked hard to follow Vandermark 5’s set. Though initially I felt that I had little purchase on the overall shape and direction of their music, Atomic are a group of considerable brio and undeniably fierce chops, and they soon won myself and the house over.

Where Atomic are most compelling is in their instrumental weave. The muscularity of Havard Wiik’s approach to the piano effectively offset the harmonic limitations that the instrument imposes. Saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist worked hardest to make everything gel, freeing his main foil, trumpeter Magnus Broo, to venture aggressively into more exploratory terrain. And surely Atomics’ biggest selling point is the exemplary partnership of bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. They may play less closely intertwined here than they do when paired in smaller combos such as The Thing or Scorch Trio, yet they work subtly to bind things together in ways never more than implicit. It’s certainly their partnership that permits Atomic to ring the changes more quickly even than Vandermark 5, with new twists and turns frequently taking the music off in surprising and compelling new directions. It’s sometimes hard to keep up, but the challenge to stay with the changes is always rewarded with something tasty, a twist of Latin swing, an unexpected improvised exchange, or an injection of driving hard bop. No matter what the precedent, however, every note sounded burnished with the lustre of modernity.

Atomic’s set-closing “Andersonville” (familiar from the “Theatre Tilters Vol. 1” album) was a slow-burning highlight of the night with a core of pure post-harmolodic abstraction, and was dedicated to the eponymous quarter of Chicago and, by implication, to the Vandermark 5; a lovely touch. The only thing left for anyone to carp about might be the brevity of the sets imposed by the shared bill, since I’m sure either band could effortlessly play two sets with no diminution of intensity or inspiration. But it was the chance to see both in action and study the contrasts that I’m sure will make this gig particularly memorable.

Vandermark 5/Atomic, The Vortex, London, 16/09/2010

Vandermark 5/Atomic

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reviewed by: Tim Owen

Live Review

4 out of 5

Vandermark 5/Atomic, The Vortex, London, 16/09/2010

There was a more than usually expectant atmosphere for this double-header.Either band would be an enticing prospect but their pairing made this show unmissable.

Vandermark 5/Atomic

The Vortex, London
16/09/10

Vandermark 5: Ken Vandermark (tenor sax and Bb clarinet), Tim Daisy (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics), Dave Rempis (alto and tenor sax)

Atomic: Magnus Broo (trumpet), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass), Fredrik Ljungkvist (saxophone), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Havard Wiik (piano)
There was a more than usually expectant atmosphere for this double-header, which bought to the shallow confines of the Vortex stage two quite distinct but essentially complimentary jazz ensembles in Atomic and Vandermark 5. Either band would be an enticing prospect, but their pairing made this show unmissable.

Vandermark 5 opened proceedings, which seemed to take a few punters aback, yet Ken Vandermark gave Atomic’s drummer Paal Nilssen-Love full credit for being the main enabler of the tour, and it’s worth pointing out that Atomic are almost as well-established on the European Jazz scene as Vandermark 5 are in America. The Norwegian/Swedish quintet was formed in 1999, only three years after Vandermark 5’s first recordings, and have (at least) seven albums of their own to draw from.

So, Vandermark 5 kicked things off with what Vandermark described as “something old”, namely “Friction (for György Ligeti)” from their 2008 album “Beat Reader”. For most bands this would count as new material, but the fearsomely productive Ken Vandermark has released two further Vandermark 5 albums since then, and the rest of this set was comprised of all new compositions, from a songbook workshopped specifically for the tour during sessions held in the bands’ native Chicago back in August.

“Friction” progressed quickly through passages that strung stridently bowed, amplified cello from Lomberg-Holm into a dialogue between Vandermark and drummer Tim Daisy, a brief drum feature, and an expansive exchange between the twinned saxophones, bass and cello, all of which merely served to whet the appetite for the main, hard-driving body of the composition. Vandermark and Dave Rempis were wonderfully well attuned, with the contrast between Vandermark’s gruff tonality and Rempis’ generally more cutting sound being a key component in the group identity.

The first new piece was “Fables of Facts” (or “Fax”, perhaps), an allusion to a great composition by Charles Mingus, three of whose albums currently feature in Vandermark’s blogged playlist. “Location (for Philip Guston)” came next, Vandermark switching to clarinet for one particularly memorable passage, cross-cutting grooves scored by the plucked strings of Kessler and Lonberg-Holm, the resulting friction leading into a combustible collective climax.

Finally, “Leap Revisited” was a classic example of Vandermark’s cellular approach to composition that again took the group through its paces, beginning with Fred Lonberg-Holm’s astringent (and very loud) processed cello solo to a bebop interlude near the close which paid homage to (I think) Lester Young’s “Lester Leaps In”, for a fresh take on the “I Got Rhythm” variations tradition .

Vandermark’s music is steeped in a breadth of such identifiably American traditions. That of Atomic, on the other hand, is characterised by a peculiarly European clarity of tone, almost completely shorn of blues or soul inflections. For some listeners (and I confess I’m one) this may make the group somewhat less immediately appealing, but they worked hard to follow Vandermark 5’s set. Though initially I felt that I had little purchase on the overall shape and direction of their music, Atomic are a group of considerable brio and undeniably fierce chops, and they soon won myself and the house over.

Where Atomic are most compelling is in their instrumental weave. The muscularity of Havard Wiik’s approach to the piano effectively offset the harmonic limitations that the instrument imposes. Saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist worked hardest to make everything gel, freeing his main foil, trumpeter Magnus Broo, to venture aggressively into more exploratory terrain. And surely Atomics’ biggest selling point is the exemplary partnership of bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. They may play less closely intertwined here than they do when paired in smaller combos such as The Thing or Scorch Trio, yet they work subtly to bind things together in ways never more than implicit. It’s certainly their partnership that permits Atomic to ring the changes more quickly even than Vandermark 5, with new twists and turns frequently taking the music off in surprising and compelling new directions. It’s sometimes hard to keep up, but the challenge to stay with the changes is always rewarded with something tasty, a twist of Latin swing, an unexpected improvised exchange, or an injection of driving hard bop. No matter what the precedent, however, every note sounded burnished with the lustre of modernity.

Atomic’s set-closing “Andersonville” (familiar from the “Theatre Tilters Vol. 1” album) was a slow-burning highlight of the night with a core of pure post-harmolodic abstraction, and was dedicated to the eponymous quarter of Chicago and, by implication, to the Vandermark 5; a lovely touch. The only thing left for anyone to carp about might be the brevity of the sets imposed by the shared bill, since I’m sure either band could effortlessly play two sets with no diminution of intensity or inspiration. But it was the chance to see both in action and study the contrasts that I’m sure will make this gig particularly memorable.


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