Vandermark Five Elements of Style…Exercises in Surprise

The seventh outing for this Chicago quintet is perhaps the least predictable so far. Ken Vandermark has always kept a foot planted firmly on the bedrock of jazz history, paying homage to his forbears and moving their good work forward. This time the swing and bop elements are still there but kept mostly in the pocket and used sparingly. Instead the band travels into territory explored and colonised by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, first on the funk-fortified pot-boiler "Knock Yourself Out,” then the mile-a-minute freak-out "Telefon” and finally the mini-epic closer "Six of One.” The trip back and forth from this style and the band’s more modern moments is much shorter. As always the secret weapon in the three horn line-up is Jeb Bishop on trombone, who does the work of both low-end rhythm kicking and midrange melody and harmonics. Tim Daisy’s approach is more skittering and cymbal crashing than former drummer Tim Mulvenna’s heavier hand, but it suits the longer and lighter tone of the album. And as always Kent Kessler’s bass is like Gibraltar itself, steady and rock solid. (Atavistic)