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Sound in Action Trio: Gate

Gate might be Ken Vandermark’s 27th release this year-we lost count a few months ago-but like most of his recordings it exhibits a singular identity and focused approach. This is the second Sound in Action Trio album and the follow-up to 1999’s Design in Time; joining Vandermark in the reeds-and-two-drummers format again is Robert Barry, a veteran of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and Tim Daisy, current Vandermark 5 timekeeper and Tim Mulvenna’s successor. Vandermark composed five of the album’s 11 cuts, the remaining six being adventurous-and successful-renderings of Eric Dolphy’s “The Prophet,” Ed Blackwell’s “Togo,” Coltrane’s “One Down, One Up,” Ayler’s “Love Cry,” Herbie Nichols’ “House Party Starting” and 1950s Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter Hobart Dotson’s “Enlightenment” (Barry appeared on the original recorded version). Unsurprisingly, the percussionists pervade the sonic spectrum with a barrage of swinging cymbal patterns, crisp snare rolls and richly tuned toms, displaying uncanny communicative ability. Vandermark seems extremely comfortable in this particular setting, smoothly shifting from brawny tenor barking to contemplative clarinet musings. He gives the drummers space to express themselves, which they do by continuously, albeit subtly, transforming their rhythms; Barry and Daisy never venture too far out, maintaining a solid foundation for Vandermark to weave in and around. Although I’d be even more intrigued to hear a textural conceptualist like Paul Lovens in this ensemble, Barry and Daisy are perfectly suited to these particular compositions.

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