6/01: An afternoon off before the first Chicago Tentet concert (full lineup: Peter Brötzmann, Johannes Bauer, Jeb Bishop, Per-Åke Holmlander, Kent Kessler, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Joe McPhee, Paal Nilssen-Love, myself, Michael Zerang). Visited the Museum Ludwig in the afternoon and am blown away by the photographs and paintings by Wols. The gig at the Stadtgarten is a bit stressed, we found out that our sound check was going to be delayed for a couple hours because there’s another band playing at the club right after us- an all women pop band from Russia.
6/02: The group played in Utrecht as part of the Rumor Festival. After a bit of work we convince the soundman to only put the tuba in the PA. Jeb fits right into the mix, like he never was away, and for the first time the lineup is weighted towards the brass. At points the ensemble fronts three trombones (McPhee on Clifford Thorton’s valve trombone).
6/03: Long train to eastern Germany for a concert in Cottbus. Laurence, Marek, and Ania drove 8 hours back and forth from Poland to hear the band. Brötzmann suggested that the ensemble use more space and time to let things develop organically and let them move in different directions, we don’t need to be on ten at all times. I started to use the strategy of waiting until McPhee entered before I even consider playing; the logic being that Joe knows quite a bit more than me and if he’s not playing there would probably be a pretty good reason for it.
6/05: After an overnight train the band arrived in Ljubljana at 6am, sleepless and with a wait until past noon before there was a hotel room available in order to get some rest before our concert. Somehow we find the energy and concentration to play a great show. Brötzmann’s directive seemed to have settled in and the band is really hitting its stride.
6/06: Photo session with Ziga Koritni on the train platform before we headed to Zagreb. Dinner consisted of the worst pizza in recorded history. The concert takes place in an old movie theater with tough acoustics. A great turnout and the band responded by playing another very strong show. Though completely exhausted I am unable to sleep because the pizza was trying to kick a hole through my stomach lining all night.
6/07: Mats Gustafsson met the group in Wels. The fact that I’ve been on the road for more than a month straight took its toll and I played terribly. Once again Laurence, Marek, and Ania drove from Poland, this time 10 hours each way- then they went to work
right after they got back in the morning.
6/08: Concert in Schorndorf, thankfully I got back into the action with some strength. Missed having the baritone to play with the group on this tour, having the low end helps the rhythms I get into with Paal carry some extra weight. I think this complete lineup with Mats added is the best version of the band that we’ve ever had.
6/09: The last performance of the series took place in Vienna and it was burning, one of the best concerts of the tour. We played at Porgy and Bess, the place was packed and loaded with friends and fans. Guenter made it out despite the crutches. All in all, a real party. The only downside was that the band had to stay in a pensione about 45 minutes out of town- so much for celebrating with everyone after the show and at the end of the tour. Jeb, Kent, and I stayed up late in the small lobby talking about different approaches to playing with this group- in their case, open time and phrasing; in my case, concrete rhythms and motifs. Both can work, and in my opinion both are necessary to help give the music a sense of foreground and background.
6/10: After a month and a half in Europe, a flight back home to Chicago… to work.
© 2021 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer