Jeb Bishop — trombone
Axel Dörner — trumpets
Per-Åke Holmlander — tuba
Kent Kessler — bass
Fred Lonberg-Holm — cello
Fredrik Ljungkvist — saxophones/clarinet
Dave Rempis — saxophones
Ken Vandermark — saxophones/clarinets
Artwork: Richard Hull
Design: Louise Molnar
1 A Certain Light (for Peter Kowald) 16:10
2 Framework (for Rob Vandermark) 16:30
3 Slides #3 (for Bernard Parmegiani) 8:25
1 Towards Abstraction (for Gil Evans) 12:20
2 Slides #1 (for Kevin Drumm) 7:25
3 Image As Text (for Richard Hull) 19:06
All compositions by Ken Vandermark (ASCAP)
Recorded on September 23 and 24, 2002
by John McCortney at Airwave Recording Studios, Chicago.
Mixed by John McCortney and Ken Vandermark with assistance from Kevin Drumm.
Executive producers: Bruno Johnson and Ken Vandermark.
Thanks to the MacArthur Foundation.
Special thanks to
Okka Disk, the musicians, Richard Hull, and Ellen Major.
|On the morning of Saturday, September 21st, 2002, the members of the third Territory Band (except Dave Rempis) were starting our final rehearsal at Airwave Recording Studios in Chicago. The next afternoon we had a concert at the Cultural Center, followed by two days of recording. John Corbett called me as we were about to begin the day's work and told me that Peter Kowald had died. I did not know Peter well, but I was fortunate enough to have recorded with him for a couple of days towards the start of his insane 3 month road trip across North America, and to have met him numerous times at festivals in Europe. One of my most memorable experiences with him was when he gave me and Mats Gustafsson a ride back to our hotel from the festival grounds of Le Mans in his van. Peter started the engine and immediately cranked his stereo, pounding the interior of the vehicle with gospel music that blasted from the aluminum speakers of his automobile. He got lost as soon as he pulled out of the parking lot, but somehow found his way back to our hotel in the pouring rain, driving recklessly fast on narrow French streets, yelling over the music the entire time, "I LOVE THIS, SUCH SOUL, INCREDIBLE SINGING!! FANTASTIC..." I was nearly deaf by the time we got out of the van. It was very, very hard to now believe that he was suddenly gone. I hung up the phone and told the band that Peter had died in New York the night before, after playing a concert. When I later heard that he had passed at William Parker's apartment it seemed almost too fatalistic to be true. The first music we played after hearing this news was "A Certain Light," and this piece is dedicated to Peter.
In my ongoing struggle to find ways to make the music I play economically viable, there have been few models from either the music or art scenes that have helped me. I am fortunate to work with musicians who believe in "getting in the van," taking the music on the road whether in Europe or the United States or elsewhere. Like me, they feel that jazz is a "process art form," that ideas and skills are developed through performance, and the more frequently a set of players can improvise together the more thorough their real time communication will be. The issue has not been finding creative, hard working musicians, the issue has been finding ways to pay them. I am deeply indebted to David Viecelli and Erhard Hessling for their immeasurable help in organizing concert tours for me in North America and Europe, respectively. Without them, whatever I have been able to accomplish in the last several years would not have been possible. Clearly, the MacArthur Foundation has also enabled me to take on projects that would otherwise not have happened, like putting the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet on the road in North America, or making it possible to organize and record the Territory Band. But, despite what I have learned by using the funds of the MacArthur prize, it did not alter the fundamental way I have proceeded musically, or help me solve the essential problem of "how do we get paid for our work?" The prize is finished, and I have much more to do. Of all the people that I know, the person who has helped me most in dealing with this issue has been my brother, Rob Vandermark. He directs a company called Seven Cycles which builds custom made bicycle frames. In order to accomplish his goals, Rob has reinvented the idea of manufacturing in the United States. For me to find a way to economically sustain creative work it has been necessary to rethink almost every aspect of how to organize and run the ensembles I deal with. Rob's radical approach and suggestions have been the best source of information I have ever had to help me with this process, because there must be a new and better way to build the future of this music. "Framework" is for him.
On this album there are two versions of a composition called "Slides." In a perfect world, improvising bands would again play multiple nights in one city, indicating how real improvisation changes from performance to performance, whether interacting with predetermined materials or not. Right now that's history. The inclusion of "Slides #3" and "Slides #1" from these recording sessions is a small attempt to indicate how radically different a composition for improvisers can be reinterpreted. "Slides" is a mechanism piece, one of a series of compositions that I've written for the Vandermark 5, FME, and the Territory Band, in an attempt to try to develop compositional form spontaneously. With "Slides," there are six numbered sections and a coda. In each section there is an arena of musical action (1: electronics improvisation, 2: Paul Lytton performance concurrent to various instrumental clusters, 3: tuba improvisation with melodic phrase accompaniment, 4: six sound components individually cued by instrumental pairs, 5: quartet "sound" improvisation, 6: quartet "free jazz" improvisation, Coda: open individual choice from the above events). Each section's length is determined by a specific member of the band,
who then also chooses the next event of the piece (section 1: myself, 2: Jeb Bishop, 3: Axel Doerner, 4: Fredrik Ljungkvist, 5: Per-Ake Holmlander, 6: Dave Rempis, coda: myself). In the third take of "Slides" the sequence is 3/1/6/3/5/2/5/6/2/6/3/1/4/6/4/1/coda. The first take ran as follows, 4/3/6/2/6/3/1/4/6/5/2/5/3/6/1/coda. I designated the starting section and when the coda would occur, otherwise both the interior sections and the exterior form were improvised and, aside from section 1, "out of my control."
I've become interested in the mechanism pieces as a way to deal with the ongoing issue of how to keep the music improvised despite utilizing predetermined materials. In my experience, a series of events will affect the musical choices an improviser makes. If the musical sequence remains the same it can become necessary to find ways to motivate players to "re-solve the problems" suggested by a composition as though they were encountering them for the first time, to get them to fight the aspect of human nature that returns us to what we "know will work" in a given situation. The mechanism pieces ask, "What if this sequence can't be anticipated, how will it affect the improviser's interaction with familiar material?" The construction of "Slides" was greatly influenced by Bernard Parmegiani's album, de natura sonorum, one of the great documents of electronic music I've encountered, and the third version of this composition is dedicated in recognition of his work.
Kevin Drumm introduced me to Parmegiani's music. Kevin's impact on the second and third Territory Band recordings was profound, and his assistance with the mixes on Atlas and Map Theory was crucial to the success of the music. As I understand it, he is currently taking a hiatus from music. As a huge fan of Kevin's ideas and playing, I hope that he will take the path of Sonny Rollins and not Don van Vliet, returning to performance and recording when the time seems right, not walking away from the field at the height of his creativity.
"Towards Abstraction" is in many ways the most conventional piece on Map Theory, I suppose, but hopefully in ways that are personal and surprising. Part of what has made working with this ensemble so inspiring is that all of the musicians involved have been extremely open minded about the material that I've presented them for each project. For example, Paul Lytton is not generally associated with playing "jazz time" (let alone the heavy groove at the end of this piece), yet he has been completely open to the task of playing drums in this vein. Hearing his approach to this kind of music, as well as the more "open" improvisation he is usually associated with, is a testament to why he is rightly considered to be one of the great musicians of our time. As with all the compositions I write, this piece has its dedication too. "Towards Abstraction" is for Gil Evans. Aside from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Evans is my favorite arranger. I am still trying to learn from the clarity of his parts and his use of instrumental color and timbre, and will surely do so for the rest of my life. In addition, as with all of my favorite musicians associated with jazz, Gil Evans built on the developments of the past to realize music in his own time, using the sounds and rhythms that inspired him, wherever they came from.
The last piece on this album, "Image As Text," is for the painter Richard Hull. Lloyd Sachs, a Chicago writer and now editor at the Chicago Sun-Times introduced us in 2000 with the hopes that we would collaborate on a project integrating music and the visual arts. After more than a year of discussion and work, Lloyd's instigation resulted in "Shadow Music," presented at the Arts Club Of Chicago on June 29, 2001. Since that introduction the three of us have been in close contact, discussing ideas of future work involving music, visual art, and writing. I am very, very happy that Richard was willing and interested in contributing artwork to the Map Theory project. The cd format is not always kind to a visual artist, and Richard's paintings are large and fantastic, deserving a much bigger space than is possible here. Even so, in this reduced forum, it's good to be working together again.
In closing, I'd like to say that though it's difficult as hell to keep a large group project together, the musical and personal chemistry of this ensemble has made it more than worthwhile. When the band last got together in September of 2002, it was striking how quickly the music came together despite the fact that we had not met for a year, and that Paal Nilssen-Love was new to the group. Later that fall, the Territory Band was invited to perform at the Berlin Jazz festival by John Corbett; this was to be followed by concerts in Vasteras, Sweden and Oslo, Norway. Unknown to anyone at the time we recorded this music, Paal was becoming sick, and suffering from increasing pain. His illness escalated until the end of October, when he finally collapsed in Oslo after a concert and was admitted to the hospital where he was later diagnosed with cancer. A couple of days after his collapse the band met to rehearse in Berlin, trying to reassemble the music and deal with the idea that we'd be there without Paal. It is a further testament to the musicianship and specific nature of this combination of musicians that we succeeded. Everyone contributed, but particular mention needs to be made of Paul Lytton's playing on those days—he held together music designed for two percussionists beautifully—and in Berlin he performed at many concerts, in addition to also subbing for Paal in The Thing, led by Mats Gustafsson, and including Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten. While watching that concert it was clear that Paul could easily be one of the major "free jazz" drummers on the scene today, if he wanted (and which I doubt). After I heard the news about Paal's illness, I informed the band that I was putting the group on hiatus until he recovered. Speaking personally, those months were some of the most difficult in my life. My contact with Paal was limited to phone calls, letters, and e-mail, all I could really do was hope for the best. When the news came that he had recovered by last summer it seemed like the previous six months hadn't existed, and when I saw Paal again it was like the clock had been reset. Most of the Territory Band meets again in September, 2004 (Per-Ake will miss the sessions as he and his girlfriend, Cecilia Aslund, are expecting a baby at that time). To say that I am again looking forward to composing the music, working on it with these players, performing and recording it is a major understatement. I will be 40 that month, and maybe after thinking about Peter Kowald and Paal Nilssen-Love the realization that we're all here on borrowed time is hitting me. There is so much left to do.
—Ken Vandermark, July 2004