Vandermark 5 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Vandermark 5

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For the last 15 years reedist Ken Vandermark has fronted a crazy variety of bands, each conceived to explore a certain area of interest. In the Vandermark 5, one of his most versatile, the episodic compositions set the stage for high-energy small group improvisations. Their new double disc, The Color of Memory (Atavistic)--featuring saxophonist Dave Rempis, trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Tim Daisy--provides not only sheer riff power but also shifts in tone and density that lead to exhilarating solos. The band has quietly become the leader's most traditional jazz project in terms of its swing patterns and instrumental voicings, but it can effortlessly switch to a tune like the 18-minute "Camera," in which contrapuntal horn lines continuously change the landscape for the improvisers. During the band's early years, Bishop alternated between trombone and lacerating electric guitar, enhancing the group's volatility and volume; his departure from the guitar a few records back edged the band toward a more conventional jazz sound. Bishop left the group after completing Memory and has since been replaced with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who's quite comfortable leaving the acoustic realm and kicking up a high-volume, effects-laden ruckus--a quality that should help the group reclaim its early steamroller energy. See also Saturday. Fri 9/30, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10.

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