Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Resonance Ensemble - Double Arc (2015)

The Resonance Ensemble

Ken Vandermark - baritone saxophone & Bb clarinet
Dave Rempis - alto & tenor saxophones
Mikołaj Trzaska - alto saxophone & bass clarinet
Wacław Zimpel - Bb & alto clarinet
Magnus Broo - trumpet
Per-Åke Holmlander - tuba
Steve Swell - trombone
Mark Tokar - bass
Christof Kurzmann - llooppTim Daisy - drums
Michael Zerang - drums

Double Arc

MW 936-2

By Maciej Lewenstein

My super short review on Facebook was: The Resonance Ensemble was Made To Break Territory Band. It was obviously invented for fun, but there is certain message in this sentence. There was always quiet a difference between the musical concepts and sound of Ken Vandermark's Territory Band and The Resonance Ensemble. Territory Band include always (or at least on the records that I know) Jim Baker on piano, which is very essential. There was a bass string section of Kent Kessler on bass and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, who both frequently use the bowing technique. In Territory Band the reeds section is more saxophone oriented, whereas in The Resonance Ensemble clarinets are more exposed. Last, but not least, Territory Band included in their personnel electronics: for instance, Lasse Marhaug played on "New Horse For The White House" and on "Collide", notable for the participation of Fred Anderson.

On "Double Arc" my beloved Christof Kurzmann joins the Ensemble and that, of course, make its effect on the music. Kurzmann is one of the leaders of Made To Break, an incredible quartet with Ken Vandermark on reeds, Tim Daisy on drums and Devin Hoff on bass guitar. I saw them twice in concerts in Barcelona and I admire their CDs: "Provoke" and "Cherchez La Femme". I consider Kurzmann to be the most original and creative laptop player/performer I know! So in this sense the last album of The Resonance Ensemble breaks certain barriers that were separating it from other projects of Ken et consortes.

The set was recorded at the Manggha Culture Center in Cracow. "Double Arc", composed by Ken, consists of "Arc One" and "Arc Two", divided into 8 and 6 short or moderately long sections, respectively. There is a lot of collectively free improvised fragments (c.f. "Arc One, Section 1"), but also a lot of more traditional ones with a composed theme followed (or not!) by improvised solos or duos (c.f. "Arc One, Section 2"). As Ken explains in the liner notes, this is the longest piece he wrote since the mentioned "Collide", strongly inspired by his interests in film music: American action movies of the 1970s, the early period of New York School composers, like John Cage and Morton Feldman, the work of the "Midwest School" of improvising composers form the late 1960s and 1970s (in particular represented by the late Julius Hemphill), obviously American and European free jazz and later free improvised music, Gil Evans & Miles Davis collaborations, and... funk of the 1970s from the USA, Nigeria and Ghana. The piece is dedicated to the great late Polish composer, Witold Lutosławski, one of the Ken's favorite composers of the XXth century. 

Evidently this is the most conceptual and best constructed album of The Resonance Ensemble. For me it is a masterpiece, comparable to the highest achievements of this sort in the whole history of the contemporary jazz and improvised music, comparable to Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra "Ode" or Cecil Taylor's recordings with European Orchestra.

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