It is not an overstatement to say that Ken Vandermark is an unavoidable figure in the north-American jazz of the last two decades.
Born in 1964, in Warwick, Rhode Island, the musician, composer and arranger started his musical studies in his childhood, studying trumpet in a first phase. At sixteen he takes the tenor saxophone and, after two years, he starts working on what would become one of the most important and influential careers in the world of creative music. From 1983 to 1986 he studies cinema and communication in Montreal, leading the group Fourth Stream. By that time he starts saxophone studies, in Boston, with George Garzone. There, he leads the trio Lombard Street and starts his bass clarinet studies.
It’s in 1989 that Vandermark takes the most important step of his musical career. He moves to Chicago, where he still lives, and begins collaborations and the creation of several projects in the area of improvised jazz. Taking inspiration from what were doing musicians like Fred Anderson, Joe McPhee or Lester Bowie, and influenced by the music of such diverse musicians as James Brown, John Cage, Sly and the Family Stone, György Ligeti, Morton Feldman or Lee “Scratch” Perry, Vandermark creates or participates, since the beginning of the nineties, on, NRG Ensemble, Vandermark 5, Steelwool Trio, FJF, DKV Trio, Steam, Spaceways Inc., Peter Brötzmann Tentet, School Days, Joe Harriot Project, AALY Trio and Tripleplay, a trio he formed with the Boston musicians Nate McBride and Curt Newton.
Besides the intense activity as a musician and composer, Vandermark still has time to, together with music journalist John Corbett, organize festivals and concerts of free jazz and improvised music, of which the most notorious are the ones that take place at the “Empty Bottle”, a famous Chicago club. All this activity got Vandermark prizes and artistic recognition. He was considered by “Down Beat” magazine, in 1998, as “one of the 25 musicians for the future and the most influential musician of his generation working on the creative jazz music field”. The next year he took the jazz world by storm when he was awarded the “McArthur Genius Grant”. Until then, in the musical field, only names as Max Roach, Ornette Coleman, Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton or Cecil Taylor had been awarded with such distinction.
Nate McBride, bass player, born in 1971 in the state of North Carolina, he lives and Works in Boston, leading his own quartet, playing in duo with Curt Newton or playing in trio with him and the pianist James Rohr in the Riot Trio. McBride works frequently with Ken Vandermark, being part, besides Tripleplay, of the projects Barrage Double Trio, Spaceways Inc. and FME. He also plays with Mat Maneri, Pandelis Karayorgis and Joe Morris, among others.
Curt Newton also lives in Boston, Massachusetts since 1986. He recorded with Vandermark, besides the excellent “Expansion Slang” with this same line-up, the album “International Front” from 1995, credited to Steelwool Trio with the contribution of the mighty Kent Kessler playing double-bass. Besides an extensive repertoire for solo drums, Curt also plays with Joe Morris, Riot Trio, Debris and Pandelis Karayorgis, among others.
This new recording by “Tripleplay”, recorded in the studio “Audiolutions” in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, reveals a Vandermark more lyrical and less explosive than usual, but keeping the extreme intensity that has become his trademark. He shares the composition credits with bass player McBride that reveals here a less known aspect of his art – as a composer.