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Over the past decade and a half, Ken Vandermark has cultivated a steady crew of collaborators that he's drawn upon for a staggering number of groups. He's often worked with young, new players in town, and to a lesser extent abroad--he was especially good about this in the 90s--but only a handful of them have cemented working relationships with him. Tonight at Elastic Vandermark will play a series of duets with the three bassists who have anchored the overwhelming majority of his bands over the years.
Kent Kessler, Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten (who left Chicago this past spring and moved back to Oslo), and Nate McBride all turn up on the brand-new double-CD duo collection Collected Fiction (Okka Disk), which tonight's concert celebrates. (Brilliant Dutch bassist Wilbert de Joode is also on the album, but he won't be present--he's not a regular partner of Vandermark's by any stretch.) I only got a copy yesterday, so I haven't had much time to absorb the music, but I have noticed the impressive range of the performances. Obviously the tone of any given piece is affected by Vandermark's horn choice--clarinet, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone--but that's hardly the only thing that varies. While there are some paint-peeling blowouts, most of the pieces embrace the contemplative intimacy you'd expect from a drummerless duo.
Vandermark is unsentimental about his music making, preferring to look forward rather than bask in past accomplishments, but tonight's show can't help but underline the reedist's lengthy history in Chicago.
Lucky Dragons, Widows (Marriage)
Eric McPherson, Continuum (Smalls)
Annette Peacock, The Aura Years 1978-1982 (Sanctuary)
Jaleel Shaw, Optimism (Changu)
Helena, Fraise Vanille (Sunnyside)