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Design in Time by Ken Vandermark

I'm continually blown away by Ken Vandermark's wide-ranging recordings. He plays in so many settings and yet in each case sounds as though he'd dedicated his entire career to that one playing style and format. He consistently displays inspiring imagination and astonishing technique, fully integrated with a keen conceptual understanding of each project he tackles.

The thought of two drummers and a saxophonist as intense as Ken can be was a little daunting, but not to worry; the music is very involving and even downright accessible. The material breathes naturally and is very musical at all points. It doesn't jump into overdrive immediately like one might expect of a unit this shape. The choice of material is a big asset to this date as well; a good balance of originals and tunes that deserve to be covered more than they have. Vandermark does not attempt to fill every possible space. He leaves plenty of room for the drummers, who work very well together. Ken often lays out for goodly stretches and allows Barry and Mulvenna to fill the soundstage which they do with aplomb. This is not a scream fest - the music swings with the best of 'em.

Of the two drummers, it is Mulvenna who is the busier. He is a great drummer, as anyone who's seen/heard him LIVE can attest. Though Mulvenna is on the left and Barry on the right channel, it is nevertheless difficult to separate them; their playing is so synchronized and mutually supportive. Robert Barry, with his sparser playing style, is very imaginative and the two mesh beautifully. I hope Barry is afforded more recording opportunities after this re-emergence onto the scene. Ken Vandermark's playing is, once again, awe inspiring. This is no re-creation of Coltrane's "Spaces" blast furnace energy music. Ken, at times, sounds so relaxed in this setting that it can be hard to tell what's improvised and what is written.

There is much flat-out beauty on display here. The music flows naturally and sounds complete in its realization. No other instruments were needed. Again, this is a very melodic session. It's great that Delmark is recording avant garde artists again these days. I may be rambling here, but it should be obvious that I LIKE this one a lot.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ken Vandermark
  • CD Title: Design in Time
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 1999
  • Record Label: Delmark
  • Tracks: Law Years, Sounds and Something Else, One More Once, Well Suited, Cut to Fit, Angels, Feet Music, The Thing, Top Shelf, Green Chimneys, Peace
  • Musicians: Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone and clarinet), Tim Mulvenna (drums - left channel), Robert Barry (drums - right channel)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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