“The painters to whom the term “Abstract Expressionist” was applied, in 1946, by The New Yorker art critic Robert Coates, did not represent a movement or a school. They ranged in style and attitude from Willem de Kooning, whose work was rarely altogether abstract, to Barnett Newman, who was never an expressionist. What drew them together was a common experience, an aesthetic breakthrough in middle life that led to the forging of a radical new style.”
– Calvin Tomkins
from “Off The Wall, A Portrait Of Robert Rauschenberg” (New York: Picador, 2005), pg. 32.†
The year is over and it’s been good to finish up the work for 2004 here at home. December started with a short tour organized by the bassist Torsten Muller – a quartet with Paul Rutherford, Dylan van der Schyff, Torsten and myself, with concerts in Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. The music came together unbelievably fast, the first set in Victoria was almost like an accelerated conference call of possible ideas. After that, each concert just built from the one before it, but nothing felt stylistically set – the music remained open and extremely free at every performance. I was hoping that the quartet would be strong, based on the skills and histories of the players involved it seemed reasonable to expect this, but having never played with either Paul or Dylan before (and it had been 3 years since the last time I had worked with Torsten) I wasn’t exactly sure how the group would work out. Maybe we all felt this way, I know that it seemed we were equally surprised at how quickly the ensemble came together and how strong the results were. It certainly helped that Torsten and Dylan have been playing together in a number of bands in Vancouver, they have developed a great rapport. And Paul Rutherford was playing like a madman. Each night I was taken aback by his creative and technical range, I don’t think that I have ever heard such an array of sounds dance so quickly.
The improvisations moved from aggressive quartet onslaughts to solo introspection to linear group fragments with incredible speed and total clarity. Nothing was pre-organized or discussed, our method was to walk on stage and see what there was to find. Paul likened the group’s musical approach to that used by Webern on his later chamber orchestra compositions – consider all the sonic possibilities and select the best materials for each moment, rejecting the need to constantly display all resources at all times. Thankfully, Dylan recorded every show and it sounds like there’s a very good chance that one or two of the best sets will be released. In addition, the group felt so strongly about the success of the music that we’ve planned on adding to a scheduled concert at the Vancouver Jazz Festival in June by booking some work in the Chicago area, with possibly some Canadian dates if they can be organized.
© 2021 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer