Friday, April 3, 2009

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts...

I asked Ken Vandermark once why he plays in so many different groups. His reply was that he needed to be in that many bands in order to get enough work. When Vandermark first came to Chicago (he began his musical career in Boston) he found it hard to get gigs so he started forming his own bands in order to play. He was first embraced by the Indie/Punk community (think: Empty Bottle) and the DIY attitude that nurtured the scene. This mindframe has stood him in good stead over the years. A McArthur Genius Award, dozens of bands, countless recordings and a ridiculously gruelling, seemingly constant tour schedule later and you have a man who, it could be argued, is the hardest working man in the music business. But that's only one part of the whole. Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake are masters on their chosen instruments and have carved out impressive careers of their own.

Take Hamid Drake, for instance. I first encountered his music (he was called Hank back then) while he was a member of Mandingo Griot Society (with fellow persussion master Adam Rudolph, that's Hank on the far left). Then I noticed his association with the venerable Fred Anderson, then with Peter Brotzmann's Die Like a Dog, then with William Parker, then with Joe Morris... well, you get the point.

Kent Kessler is a master of the "Bull Fiddle" (the name of his Okka recording) and has appeared on many records, most notably as the soulful bottom of the Vandermark 5 (Kent is the only other player in the ensemble who has been in there since it began, back when it was a quartet).

What I love most about the DKV Trio is their bottomless energy, their driving rhythm, their sense of the tradition and the tightrope they walk between structure and freedom; in a word: musicality. They are best enjoyed in a live context (not surprisingly, to me ears, their live albums are their most successful)

The concert here covers some of the same musical territory as their Trigonometry album - the music of Don Cherry. It's taken from a performance in Italy and broadcast on Italian radio. I urge you to seek out their recordings if you like what you hear because this is indicative of the impressive music they create.

I was lucky enough to hear them live on one occasion. I asked Ken how often the trio performed each year (this was two or three years ago, I don't know if things have changed since then) and he told me three or four times. I was stunned. I asked why. He said because no one asks them. That's a mystery to me. Listen to this show and it'll be a mystery to you, too.

The lineup is: Hamid Drake on drums, Kent Kessler on bass, Ken Vandermark on horns. The music plays out like this:

Brown Rice 12.19
Dios y Diablo 8.36
band's introduction 1.08
Elephantasy (pt.1) 13.06
Elephantasy (pt.2) 9.59
thanks by Vandermark
Rememberance 5.08


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