December 10th 2012



Originally published in The Chicago Reader, December 10, 2012 edition, as part of the article, “In Rotation,” organized by Peter Margasak and including Andrea Jablonski. This is an unedited version of the text.

-Ken Vandermark

I’ve cheated on this list- it’s not 3 albums but collections of work by 3 artists. However, these are all recordings that I’ve returned to over and over again in the last year.

Ab Baars Trio, 20 Years: 1991-2011 (Wig, 2011) 5 cds. I’m fortunate to work with some of the most interesting improvisers playing music right now, and I put Ab Baars at the top of this list, both as a player and a composer- I constantly look to him for inspiration. To my ears, his tenor playing is a radical and personal amalgam of Von Freeman, Frank Wright, and Paul Gonsalves, plus he’s one of the only clarinet players I know who has expanded upon the work of John Carter. As a composer Ab has singular voice, his years in the ICP Orchestra have not created a Misha Mengelberg clone; if anything, they’ve probably pushed him further down his own creative path.

Dick Raaijmakers, Complete Tape Music (reissued on Basta, 2012) 3 cds. Kevin Drumm was the first person I played with who really focused on working with electronics. He introduced me to the music of Bernard Parmegiani, which really changed the way I thought about constructing things, and these recordings by Dick Raaijmakers are the first music of this type that have hit me with the same impact and Parmegiani- each piece on the boxiest is a knockout of sound, texture, and form.

Ennio Morricone, The Complete Edition (Edel Eur/Zoom, 2009) 15 cds. During the last few years my interest in film structure has had more impact on how I want to make music. Considering this, my enthusiasm for Morricone is probably not much of a surprise. His innovative mix of conventional music (tonal/melodic) with the avant-garde (Morricone’s involvement with the Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, for example) results in a completely unique use of overlapping sound and texture, extreme foreground/background placement, and the montage of structure. Morricone selected all the pieces on this boxiest, which includes music from his film and television scores, as well as pop and contemporary music compositions. The collection is a roller coaster ride between high art and high kitsch, with the massive emphasis on art.