double live set is powerful, especially the Wels disc, recorded at the
Music Unlimited Festival, November 8th, 1998. At Wels, the DKV Trio
(Hamid Drake on drums, Kent Kessler on bass, and Ken Vandermark on
reeds) rips confidently and creatively through “Complete
Communion Suite”, a forty-four minute tour de force improvised
off Don Cherry’s joyous “Complete Communion” theme.
Excellent recording quality. It’s been a while since a double
bass has sounded so muscular and commanding, kudos to Kessler. Drake
is stunning on the traps, using sticks and hands to hypnotic and
dynamic effect, seeming aligned with higher powers. Vandermark
deepens and diversifies his attack to include some restrained melodic
interludes along with trademark energy carvings, especially on tenor.
The three-quarter hour program vanishes in a blink, culminating in a
sensitive denouement, “Memory Sketch (For Don Cherry)”.
You half-believe the gypsy piper who inspired this music will enter at
the end to blow a few last, lingering notes on his pocket trumpet.
Chicago disc, recorded less than two weeks after Wels at Fred
Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, has three extended performances.
After the Wels disc’s jubilant triumph, this is more restrained,
yet determined in its moods. Hamid Drake is magical on “Open
Door”. Damn, he’s magical throughout! Less immediate in
impact, the Velvet Lounge sets reveals more on further listens. The
DKV Trio has, with this two-disc set, become a band worthy of space in
any collection of seminal improvised music.
Doug Lang, Coda, issue 294 (November/December 2000)
astounding double CD live set is proof that you should never make a
year-end “best of” list until December 31. I heard this
December 10, and promptly regretted a list I had e-mailed off earlier
in the week. I’m not the first person to say this, but the trio
of Hamid Drake, Kent Kessler, and Ken Vandermark is the best
live band in Chicago working any genre. DKV combine rhythmic power
and dexterity with melodic inventiveness and a touch that can’t
be matched. These two discs, recorded at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago
and the Music Unlimited ’98 Festival in Wels are proof
first disc is six pieces based on a Don Cherry theme called
“Complete Communion”. It’s a wonder to her the trio
weave in and out of Cherry’s melodic theme, adding and
subtracting each instrument. Kessler and Drake are especially attuned
to each other. As anyone who has seen Hamid Drake can testify, his
arsenal of percussion instruments is always deployed carefully and
never for mere sensation. Whether it’s a regular kit or a
variety of ethnic drums, Drake plays it close to the other members of
the trio, and his experience playing reggae and African music lets him
move into a rhythmic pocket that makes DKV practically airtight. Ths
is vivid on the second disc, where the trio hits a distinctively warm,
bluesy sensibility at times. Ken Vandermark’s broad, hearty sax
playing only adds to this impression.
There’s enough going on across both discs here to lure
you in for many listening sessions. The trio breaks down into solos
and duets, then joins together and moves from loud to quiet with grace
and passion. As an improvising group DKV are wonderfully sympathetic
and the live venue seems to be their playground. This set catches
them at their peak.
Bruce Adams, Your Flesh #43 (Spring/Summer 2000)