Vandermark 5 Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ottawa ON - February 10

Twenty-one years after he formed his first ensemble at McGill University, Ken Vandermark made his Ottawa club debut to a very small, unassuming and (I assume) sober crowd. Taking the stage relatively early to accommodate Zaphod’s Saturday club night, the Chicago-based Vandermark 5 fittingly used Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s haunting "Moya” as entrance music before addressing the audience mostly seated on the club’s floor. Vandermark and fellow saxophonist Dave Rempis’ grimy-sounding melody on opener "Friction” instantly conjured up visions of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, as the duo bounced notes off one another for the sum of the first set. After a trio of stiff but utterly focused pieces, Ken Vandermark literally and figuratively stepped back, allowing Rempis, bassist Kent Kessler and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm to clutch the last few songs in the set while he intermittently inserted fills from his bass and soprano saxophones. After a brief intermission, the second set was met with much more enthusiasm from the now budding crowd. Focussing further on individual performances as well as tracks from 2006’s A Discontinuous Line, drummer Tim Daisy’s hardhearted delivery and the Kevin Shields-ish pedal-drenched cello from Longberg-Holm threw the subdued crowd into a teeny-tiny frenzy. Vandermark characteristically alternated between melody and dissonance with his band mates, brightly confusing the meaning of free jazz with his disciplined and muscular playing. After nearly 90 minutes, the oft-expressionless Ken Vandermark smiled and thanked the crowd before closing the set with the math rock inspired "Aperture,” and (finally) received his standing ovation. As the band left the stage and the black lights went on to allow the 19-year olds to invade the club and dance to the Beastie Boys’ "Sabotage,” it became clear: Vandermark 5 is the future of jazz in a world where they do not believe in a future of jazz.