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The Color of Memory

Vandermark 5

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Album Review

The Vandermark 5 return with a whopping double-disc set of new studio recordings. Recorded in Chicago during July of 2004, the band includes Kent Kessler, Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy, and Dave Rempis. There are seven compositions across these discs, all of them dedicated to musicians, artists, and even a rock band, all of whom have left their mark in some way before passing into history — whether mainstream or obscure. Also, it's interesting to note that live, early versions of three of the pieces here — "Camera" (for Edward Weston), "That Was Now" (for the Volcano Suns), and "Pieces of the Past" (for Joseph H. Lewis) — appeared on the Alchemia box set from the NotTwo label in Poland. Simply put, this is the most diverse outing the V5 have ever done. Vandermark's compositional skill relies deeply on the blues on "Suitcase" (for Ray Charles, Elvin Jones, and Steve Lacy), and his sense of harmonic counterpoint and invention has moved to an entirely new level — check out the interplay between Vandermark and Bishop. The driving three-horn front line on "That Was Now" walks a tightrope between hard bop and free jazz. On disc two's "Vehicle" (for Magnus Broo), the blues once again shows its face; first, there's the slowly developing head that sounds like Yusef Lateef could have written it with its Eastern tinge, and then there's the front line exploding into a deep groove along an African motif that echoes Fela and Shango. But the tune itself is a driving, beat-conscious exercise in melodic and modal interplay that keeps the blues feel throughout and swings like mad. There are freer pieces here, too, such as the lovely bass/soprano duo that begins "Road Work" (for Merce Cunningham) and the truly moving and beautifully spacious "Camera" (for Edward Weston), the longest work here. It's a study in elegance, spatial inquiry, and textural restraint. The longer these bandmembers play together, the closer to the bone Vandermark's writing gets for them, and the more they open the music from the inside out. The Color of Memory is the finest and most adventurous set yet from one of the finest bands to emerge from North America in the last 20 years.

The Color of Memory, Vandermark 5
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