Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Music I Liked And Didn't - 12/23/07 - 12/25/07

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No Adds Of New Releases

Archival Additions - My obsession with all things Vandermark related continues with my investigation of these two releases from his School Days project.

SCHOOL DAYS: Crossing Division CD (Okka Disk) - “Crossing Division” was the debut release from Vandermark’s School Days project. Formed in the Spring of 2000, School Days was a quartet (now, when they perform/record, it is as a quintet, with the addition of Swedish vibist Kjell Nordeson) comprised of Vandermark (reeds), his fellow Vandermark 5 member, Jeb Bishop (trombone), and the peerless Norwegian rhythm section of Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). This disc contains six original compositions from Bishop (two) and Vandermark (four), as well as two pieces by the legendary trombonist Roswell Rudd. Continuing in the tradition of the classic free jazz groups since the ‘60’s, the material on this set demonstrates a nice balance between composition, with suavely executed ensemble passages, and spontaneous, high energy improvisation. Personal favorites included the dynamic opening track “Bookworm” and the showcase for Bishop “Broad Daylight”. Overall, “Crossing Division” is a nicely varied and high quality set of contemporary free jazz that's worthy of repeated spins.

ATOMIC / SCHOOL DAYS Nuclear Assembly Hall CD (Okka Disk) - On this release from 2004, Vandermark’s School Days project combines forces with Scandinavian quintet Atomic. Nine tracks stretch out over the two discs, with each member of the octet (both groups feature the all-world rhythm section of Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass) contributing one composition, except reedist Fredrik Ljungkvist, who provides two.

As it turns out, Ljungkvist is well deserving of the additional opportunity, as both of his pieces are among the highlights of the set. The tasty free-bop of “W Meets A” opens the proceedings and, perhaps, the best cut on the album “Kerosene” closes out the first disc. It begins as a smokey, old school showcase for Vandermark’s soulful baritone that gives way to a cool transitional segment of complementary piano and vibes out of which the group emerges with a simple vamp that provides the launching pad for an amazing solo flight on trombone by Bishop, who is joined at the end of the track by Ljungkvist on clarinet for a subdued, poignant duet. The other highlight of the first disc is Broo’s bright and hard swinging “Transparent Taylor”.

The material on the second disc tends to focus on longer compositions that are more expansive in scope. Personal favorites included Wiik’s lush and beautiful “Light Compulsion” and Bishop’s “Conjugations”, in which almost every member of the ensemble gets a solo shot under the spotlight before the track closes with the rhythm and horns laying down a simple, repetitive line that provides the foundation for incredible solos by, first, Bishop on ‘bone and, then, Vandermark on baritone. Overall, I’d have to give the slight edge to the more compact and tuneful compositions on the first disc. That being stated, however, “Nuclear Assembly Hall” is winner from start to finish, holding the listener’s attention for the full 90 minutes with slamming grooves, virtuoso solo performances, and furious group blowouts.

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Running Count For The Year

Adds 119/87%

Did Not Add 18/13%

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