Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark is best known as an indefatigable improviser, but he’s been a formidable composer and arranger for almost as long. In the late 90s he began working in Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, which began by drawing upon its members for tunes and arrangements, and his abilities have increased steadily ever since. He’s led several long-running large-scale projects of his own, among them the Territory Band and the Resonance Ensemble, and in 2012 he founded the latest, the ten-piece Audio One. It began as a short-term project to play music by some of Vandermark’s favorite midwestern artists (Julius Hemphill, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and others), but it’s kept going because he’s started writing material for it—in his liner notes to the new An International Report, one of two simultaneous Audio One releases on his own Audiographic label, Vandermark credits a fan with helping him realize that the band could grow beyond its initial repertoire. Together with the second album, The Midwest School, it demonstrates Audio One’s collective strength; its members are aggressive improvisers linked by intuitive connections. Vandermark resourcefully recasts indelible tunes such as Hemphill’s “The Hard Blues” and the Art Ensemble’s “Theme de Yoyo,” but I find An International Report more impressive because it’s built from scratch. On the opening track, a 13-minute workout called “Encylopedia of a Horse,” he takes advantage of the group’s considerable instrumental firepower, transforming the final two minutes of its taut, dry funk into a sky-opening frenzy. Audio One began as a nonet, but violist Jen Clare Paulson became the tenth member after subbing for vibist Jason Adasiewicz; the other seven musicians are reedists Mars Williams, Dave Rempis, and Nick Mazzarella, cornetist Josh Berman, trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Nick Macri, and drummer Tim Daisy.
By Peter Margasak
Originally published on August 17th 2014 to: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/ken-vandermarks-audio-one/Event?oid=13890609