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The Vandermark 5: Elements of Style… Excersises in Surprise

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Reedist Ken Vandermark is officially the leader on only one of these four albums, but his presence is strongly felt on all.

Elements of Style is unambiguously the reedist’s. The Vandermark Five includes mainstays bassist Kent Kessler and trombonist Jeb Bishop as well as drummer Tim Daisy and saxophonist Dave Rempis. Daisy is solid. Rempis is impassioned but unformed, a less graceful version of Vandermark, who, for all his virtues, is not a notably graceful player. Vandermark’s tunes are nicely crafted. Horn-wise, he’s his usual good, hard-working self-an imaginative improviser with fast fingers who probably doesn’t pay enough attention to the subtler aspects of playing his horns. He’s a blunt saxophonist who seems to soften up only when the tempo is down, as on the attractive ballad “Strata.” There’s no reason such sensitivity can’t be used in other, rowdier contexts, especially in the recording studio where volume isn’t as much of a concern.

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