logo   Baraka (OD12012)
Musicians DKV Trio:
Hamid Drake — drums
Kent Kessler — bass
Ken Vandermark — reeds
Cover and Artwork cover

Cover: Peter Brötzmann
Graphics: Louise Molnar
Photo: Marty Perez


1. Double Holiday (10:46) (MPEG2)
2. Soft Gamma Ray Repeater (8:14)
3. Baraka (35:58)
4. Figure It Out (7:16)
5. Consequence (9:27) (MPEG2)
total time: 71:41

Compositions by Drake/Kessler/Vandermark

Recording Info

Recorded at Überstudio, Chicago, IL, February 17/19, 1997

Produced by: Ken Vandermark
Executive Producer: Bruno Johnson
Engineer: Brendan Burke


This is an amazing time to be in Chicago; the city’s free-music community has evolved into one of the world’s most active. At the center of this activity is concert organizer, band leader and multi-reedist Ken Vandermark, who issues more records in a year than many of us buy. Baraka is the debut recording of his DKV Trio with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Hamid Drake. With its balance of decent writing, open-minded improvising (many free players turn tail at the first sign of a steady groove, but not these guys) and dynamic playing, this has become my favorite of his regularly working bands. It’s on Okka, a label that’s worked overtime both to record Chicago’s best players and to document their connections with the European free scene.

- Bill Meyer, Magnet, November/December 1997

An "Editor’s Choice" release for 1997, Cadence, January 1998

Kessler, Vandermark and master percussionist Hamid Drake constitute the DKV Trio, an outlet for their freer, less constrained spontaneous impulses. The title piece from Baraka (OkkaDisk, ****) gives them extended blowing opportunities in both pensive and propulsive modes. "Soft Gamma Ray Repeater" is a moody ballad with Vandermark on bass clarinet and "Figure It out" is built upon textural gestures. As an ensemble, the three are less interactive (think of the contrasting components of a trio like Air) than "all of one mind" — emphasizing supportive values rather than a tense tug of war. When they crank it up — with Vandermark inhaling the beat and exhaling blasts of blue flame — they’re capable of generating blast-furnace heat.

- Art Lange, Pulse, November 1997

A simple superlative: DKV Trio is the best working band in Chicago jazz. That’s no small feat considering that its members work in lot of other combinations. Assembled in 1994 by reedman Ken Vandermark specifically for his recording project Standards (Quinnah), the group forged an instant bond that mandated further investigation. Drummer Hamid Drake never fails to provide a spark and when he and bassist Kent Kessler get on the good foot you can expect a bonfire. Where many free groups avoid funky swinging or melodic materials DKV eagerly embraces them. The trio’s open-ended, sometimes set-length improvisations unfold in sections: Drake and Kessler might set up a cyclical groove for Vandermark to dive into or soar above, then an insistent bass clarinet ostinato might free up the bassist to take one of his superb arco solos after which Drake might suddenly kick out a Max Roach high hat jam or hit the ground running with some infectious Afro-pop polyrhythms or reggae snare-centricity. All three players are respectful listeners cresting space and letting the music breathe but challenging each other as well. Kessler benefits greatly from this simultaneous relaxation and prodding, turning in consistently original performances. And Vandermark, already well-known as a firebrand, is quickly emerging as one of the finest young balladeers to tote a tenor. This selling allows him ample room to dip deep into both bags. Each time out DKV invents a new context where daring exploration and pure corporeal pleasure shake hands and get down to business.

- John Corbett, Chicago Reader, January 31, 1997