Ab Baars Trio with Ken Vandermark | Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Ab Baars Trio with Ken Vandermark Recommended Free All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: 2009

Ken Vandermark and Amsterdam’s Ab Baars first played together nearly a decade ago at the Empty Bottle, and though the two reedists both wanted to do it again, they didn’t manage it till fall 2007. If they seem like an unlikely match, that’s only because each has acquired a less-than-accurate reputation—Vandermark as a fire breather, Baars as contemplative and austere. But they’re both multifaceted players, able to juggle roles as easily as instruments, and they prove it yet again on last year’s Goofy June Bug (Wig), where Vandermark joins Baars’s working trio of bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Martin van Duynhoven. Prior to recording the album they toured Europe, fine-tuning a new repertoire that both reedists contributed to, and the group clearly developed an impressive rapport on the road. Baars and Vandermark mostly use clarinet and tenor saxophone in various combinations—Baars also plays shakuhachi on a couple pieces—and their refined interactions allow them a wide expressive range, from pin-drop whispers to full-on blowing. The inspiration for a given song is sometimes hard to hear—though Baars intended “Honest John” as a tribute to Sun Ra saxophonist John Gilmore, only a brief twin-tenor passage late in the tune sounds anything like him—but that’s really just an indication of how evolved the group’s aesthetic is. Their Chicago dates cap a North American tour, and they’ve been honing a new set of material. They also perform at the Hideout on Friday, April 25, and the Ab Baars Trio plays without Vandermark at the same venue on Saturday; both sets are part of the third-anniversary celebration for the Immediate Sound series. —Peter Margasak

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