www.tomajazz.com | perfiles


..:: KEN VANDERMARK INTERVIEW. JANUARY 2003 by José Francisco Tapiz


Ken Vandermark is gonna play about 16 concerts in his visit to Europe in february, 2003 with Paul Lytton and Kent Kessler. Here is the musician and creator in an exclusive interview in Tomajazz by José Francisco Tapiz



Q: What are we going to listen in your visit to Europe with the LKV Trio?

KV: This will be the first time LKV plays in Europe. A few years ago, Paul Lytton, Kent Kessler and myself did some concerts around Chicago. Since then we've worked together in the Territory Band and with smaller groups comprised from that lineup. So this will be the first extended tour as a trio and we're looking forward to it. All the music will be completely improvised from concert to concert so it's hard to say what it will happen exactly -part of what I'm looking for is a sense of discovery in each performance -but I'm guessing it we'll be dealing with an aesthetic that integrates issues of "European free improvisation" with an "American sense of time."

Q: What's jazz to you? And free-jazz?

KV: Well, this is a question that could take a book to answer. In general, I see the jazz continuum as a tradition of narrative improvisers whose work has been directly affected by the innovations and creativity of black American musicians from the 20th century. So, to me, Evan Parker is a jazz musician: his improvisations lead a listener from point "a" to point "b" and his methods are influenced by some of the extended technique work of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, among others. I hear a distinct difference in the improvisation you can find in "the new composed music" that's directed by chance procedures or free choice, etc. Because the issue of "narrative approach" isn't an essential aspect to that kind of improvisation. Obviously, there are a lot of people who would disagree with me on this!

Q: Are you going to do some other concerts with other groups? And record some new album?

KV: The only concerts I'll be involved with on this trip to Europe will be with LKV. So far there are no plans to record, but if the music works as well as we hope we'll definitely make plans to document our work together.

Q: You have some new projects: FME, the Lovens/Lytton/Vandermark Trio and also there's some information about Tripleplay as an active project. What can you tell us about each one of them? Are you planning to release some record?

KV: I feel that I'm in the start of a transitional period. For the last half decade or so I've focused primarily on the Vandermark 5, AALY and the DKV Trio with a number of other ongoing projects filling out my interests in music (work with the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, Spaceways Inc. and School Days, for example). Last year began what I see as a shift to a more personal set of ideas about what I want to do, particularly with the realization of the Territory Band 3 and the FME (Free Music Ensemble).

The work with the Vandermark 5 has been geared towards investigating what I think a contemporary "jazz" band might sound like and different stylistic concerns that interest me (jazz, funk, new music, free improvisation, etc.). Having a regularly working group (we've played once a week in Chicago [when I'm here] for more than six years, plus tours in the States and in Europe) as a creative compositional outlet has been essential to my development. Right now it's possible that Jeb Bishop may move from Chicago. If this happens the Vandermark 5 will become a touring group so that it continue to work together, but it will no longer be possible to be a "workshop" for my ideas. I will need to come up with another ensemble to do that.

With the FME and the Territory Band I have moved away from the investigation of "styles" and I have tried to work on music that is dictated by my own internal interests. Hopefully the music of the Vandermark 5 (and other groups up to now) has been personal as well, but I feel that it's time to stop full time study and deal with my own concerns.

Regarding the LLV project (Paul Lovens, Paul Lytton and myself) and Tripleplay I am hoping to do more work with both in the near future. The tour in the U.S. with LLV was incredible and the three of us seem very committed to trying to bring the group to Europe, I'm hoping that this will happen sometime early in 2004. Regarding Tripleplay, I just performed in December with Curt Newton and Nate McBride (with Pandelis Karayorgis playing Rhodes piano). This was the first time that I had played with Curt in more than a year and a half! The music was burning though, and we all agreed it was time to return to the trio and see what there is to say now. Tentatively we're thinking of getting together this summer and working on new material.

Q: You’re saying you're going to change your interest to a more personal set of ideas: are you going to keep on recording and working with new compositions/ideas with AALY, KV5, DKV Trio, Spaceways Inc, School Days, the Brötzmann Tentet,... or they're going to be only concert groups?

KV: I will definitely be working with all of these groups in an ongoing way, I just hope that my own writing and playing will move towards a more specifically personal way of working; less modeled on the work of past masters.

Q: Is the name FME a tribute to the FMP label?

KV: The name for FME is a kind of homage to both the SME (Spontaneous Music Ensemble) and the FMP (Free Music Productions) label. Both the SME and FME are associated with the European "free" music and the idea of FME is to play music that is as free as possible from stylistic constraints: we work with music that is "abstract" (open pulse, dealing with timbre as opposed to pitch) and melodically/groove based. The band's first album has just been released on Okka Disk as a limited edition. Taken from a live concert in Stockholm it is a good example of how the band works and sounds.

Q: There's some information about some new records of KV5, with Paul Lytton and the Territory Band 3. Can you tell us about them? Are they recorded?

KV: The new Vandermark 5 album, "Airports for Light", is being released by Atavistic in march. The first 1500 copies will include a bonus disk called "Six for Rollins" (arrangements I made for a series of Rollins’ compositions: "John S.", "The Bridge", "East Broadway Run Down", "Freedom Suite pt. 2", "Strode Rode", and three pieces from the album, "Alfie" ["He's Younger than You Are", "Little Malcolm Loves His Dad", and "Street Runner with Child"], put together as a suite). We're in the process of recording the Rollins' material now, live in concert, the music was recorded in August of 2002 and it is the first material released with the "new" (he joined the group in December of last year) drummer, Tim Daisy.

During the tour with LLV a number of the concerts were recorded. I'm planning on reviewing them over the next month to see if one of the cdrs captures the energy and creativity of the group. If so, I hope that Mr. Lovens and Mr. Lytton will agree to have it released as a document of the kind of work we do together.

The third incarnation of the Territory Band (same line up as number 2, but with Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and Paul Lytton instead of Tim Mulvenna) convened in Chicago in September of last year (2002) and the results were incredible. The collection of players really felt like a band this time, it felt much easier to get to the heart of the material than it had before and everything seemed to fall into place naturally. We performed at the Chicago Cultural Center following a week of rehearsals and went into the studio for two days after that, all of those performances were fantastic -I can't speak highly enough about the creativity of the members of that group. All of them, Jim Baker, Jeb Bishop, Axel Doerner, Kevin Drumm, Per-Ake Holmlander, Kent Kessler, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Lytton, Paal Nilssen-Love and Dave Rempis are exceptional musicians and improvisers, and we work together beautifully. We were fortunate enough to do a short trip with the band in Europe this past fall, playing at the Berlin Jazz Festival and in Västerĺs, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway. I hope to have the third Territory Band document out sometime next year and hope to have more opportunities to work with the group in a live context.(1)

Q: Since you are very interested in manage your own music producing yourself, is in your mind the idea of creating your own record company? Or are you satisfied with your relation with the multiple companies you've record and especially with Okka Disk and Atavistic?

KV: My working relationship with Okka and Atavistic is pretty ideal, they give me complete artistic control over the albums I make and they pay for most of the costs and do the work of manufacturing and distributing the recordings. I'm too busy to take on the full time job of running a label, I would rather put whatever energy I have into making new music and performing.

Q: Do you keep the rights of all the records that you've done? I'm thinking about the fantastic "Double Barrage Trio" and about the actual state of Quinnah Records, the label where this records and others were released. Is there some interest about re-releasing those Quinnah Records again in some way as you did with "A Meeting in Chicago"?

KV: In general I have the rights of the recordings. If I could find Jeff Dreves, who ran Quinnah, I am sure that I'd be able to re-release "Barrage". Right now I am more concerned with the contemporary work and getting that documented correctly. Unfortunately, this means some recordings are going to be "lost," the "Barrage" cd is an example of this: it's out of print and will probably remain so for the time being.


Q: You've changed one classic drummer in Vandermark's projects, Tim Mulvenna by Tim Daisy. What brings him to this group? In what direction are you working now with this ensemble? I think that there's a fantastic sonic evolution since your first recordings with this group, I also like the way you bring the spirit of the people you are paying tribute in each song to the spirit and sound of the KV5...

KV: Tim Mulvenna decided to quit the group last summer and after completing a tour in Europe in the fall he left the band (2). Luckily, Tim Daisy, a drummer who everyone in the Vandermark 5 had played with before in other contexts and who has worked extensively with Dave Rempis in their group, Triage, was interested in joining the ensemble. Like all the other members of the Vandermark 5, Tim brings in his own ideas and personality to realizing the material I bring in to work with. He's got incredible drive and he's very open minded, willing to try out different rhythmic ideas I've got for the compositions. As I said above, I'm not sure what the next step with the Vandermark 5 will be after this album. It depends a lot on what Jeb Bishop decides to do about leaving Chicago and in what capacity the band will continue to work together.

Q: I miss Jeb Bishop's guitar, it is decision from its own?

KV: A while back Jeb decided to stop playing the guitar and so that element was eliminated from the band's sound.

Q: You've also add the trombonist Wolter Wierbos to KV5 in some moments. Are you planning to increase this ensemble or it is open to specific collaborations?

KV: In general the V5 has played as a self contained unit, only occasionally have other musicians sat in with the band. The occasion with Wolter Wierbos was luckily recorded.

Q: In V5 there's a kind of evolution in the rhythms you're working with: cool, free, west-coast and many other jazz styles and also blues, rock... What are those new rhythmic ideas you are talking about?

KV: In the past I’ve written pieces for different groups where the source remained intact in the composition (i.e. the "funk" material for the Vandermark 5), what I am hoping to do is to incorporate a more flexible application of the ideas so the source isn't so stylistically evident.

Q: Are you going to release some kind of entire "HBF" version?

KV: The only time that "HBF" been played as a piece is in concert, I was using its themes as a connective on the "Acoustic Machine" album.

Q: You've played in Zu’s record "Igneo", this no-wave, free-jazz or post-rock group. Steve Albini, who produces this record is also from Chicago. Do you have in mind some producer like him (not strictly from jazz or a musician) for your records? Or do you prefer to produce yourself and release what you have in mind? Can we consider a producer as part of the group he's producing?

KV: Generally speaking I'm not interested in working with producers for my own music. I have a pretty clear idea of what I'm striving for in the ensembles that I lead, and since I'm making musical considerations for them all the time I doubt that someone outside of my experience is going to have a better perspective on what needs to be accomplished than I do. This is based primarily on how I view working in the studio for the kind of music I play. Whether I'm in the studio or in a live context I see the recording of improvised music as a document of one event, not the ultimate expression of a process oriented art form. Every time I play I try to be as creative and spontaneous as possible, whether in the studio or live, whether using written materials or improvising completely, so the recording to me, documents one example of how this material can be realized or how this group of individuals improvise together. It's not clear to me how a producer could work with this kind of approach unless in an artificial or contrived manner, altering the music through an outside concept that's not present in the general method the ensemble(s) use to work together.

Q: Who are the next "creators" to whom you are going to pay tribute with a song?

KV: It's hard to say, there are people all around me now and throughout history who keep me going and keep me inspired. I believe there is no single person who accomplishes anything, things always happen in the context of collaboration.

Q: In a jazz forum there's been some discussion about illegal recordings ("bootlegs" and this kind of stuff that fans like so much). What do you think about it? Do you think that it damages you if I make a copy of one of your records and give it to a friend. I can tell you that the first time I listened to your music was when a good friend make me a copy of "Target or Flag"...

KV: My attitude towards "bootleg" recordings is pretty different from many of the other musicians I work with. First, I always ask people who want to record one of my concerts to make sure that it's fine with all of the musicians involved. Second, I require them to give me a copy in the same format that they record it (i.e. if they make a digital recording I request that they send me a DAT or a cdr, not a cassette). This way I have a document of the same quality as what may circulate. If people don't ask me for permission to record before attempting to, I will tell them that this is wrong and request that they don't tape. Also, if anyone in the group performing doesn't want the concert recorded I will tell the person trying to tape the music not to. Otherwise I don't see the live documents that are "unofficial" as a threat, they are another way to get information about the music out to listeners. Most of the people that are interested in these live recordings trade them, they don't sell them (selling them is highly unethical, someone who tapes should not be profiting more from that recording than the people who created the music), and support the music through buying the "official" documents too.

Q: What do you know about jazz in Southern Europe: France, Spain, Portugal, Italy...?

KV: Unfortunately my awareness of the music from that part of the world is too limited. I know some of the Italian musicians from the Italian Instabile Orchestra, and I am aware of people like Louis Sclavis and Raymond Boni, but I am sure there are many, many great musicians living in that region that I don't know enough about.

Q: What are the records (apart from Rollins -I suppose-) that are you listening those days?

KV: Right now I'm going through my entire record collection and pulling albums that I am not 100% satisfied with- I’m running out of space! Right now I've gone up to "m", so recently I've listened to a lot of Steve Lacy, Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon, Johnny Griffin, and J.J. Johnson (among others)... I'm always curious, so generally I listen to several different kinds of music each day: jazz, soul, traditional world music, reggae, blues, new "classical," etc.

Q: Can you tell us which are some of the best records you've listen in 2002 (it doesn't mind if they are new records or re-editions).

KV: Unfortunately, I'm bad at remembering when I heard things, just that I did. I've been checking out more Gerry Mulligan in the last year, more reggae (particularly Lee "Scratch" Perry and the Studio One series on Soul Jazz), plus I've been able to find a number of old Don Cherry albums that got reissued on cd ("Blue Lake" and "Orient"). During the last stretch I've also been examining the music of Morton Feldman more thoroughly, especially the series of albums that have been released on hat [now] art. In a way, some of the most serious listening I do is in concert, either with people I work with or as a listener in an audience. So without question I'd have to say that the work of Peter Brötzmann, Paul Lytton, Paul Lovens, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mats Gustafsson, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten, Hĺvard Wiik, Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy, Dave Rempis, Kevin Drumm, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Axel Doerner, Per-Ake Holmlander, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Hamid Drake, Jim Baker, and Nate McBride (among others and in no particular order) has made a huge impact in my ideas over the last year. Live is where all the ideas get put to the test, this is where I learn the most.

Good look with your visit to Europe with LKV Trio and i look forward to meeting you in Huesca!


(1) KV: The band played and recorded new material in Chicago in September of 2002, but I’m not sure if that music will be released in 2003 or 2004. Hopefully sooner than later!
(2) KV: The final work Tim Mulvenna did with me was in November 2001 in Guimarăes, Portugal, with the Territory Band 2.


Ken Vandermark in Tomajazz (mostly in spanish): http://www.tomajazz.com/musicos/vandermark/
Ken Vandermark's web page: http://kenvandermark.com



© José Francisco Tapiz, 2003. I thanks mister Diego Sánchez Cascado and mister Efrén del Valle for his magnificient help.