album reviews

the Resonance Ensemble
Kafka in Flight
Not Two (2011)

Kindred Spirits: the Vandermark 5, Peter Brötzmann Tentet.

Jazz saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark is no stranger to large groups. He plays with the Peter Brotzmann Tentet, and he helms the ensemble the Territory Band and his own avant-jazz quintet, the Vandermark 5. His latest release, "Kafka in Flight," features his 10-musician collective the Resonance Ensemble in a 2009 performance.

Despite the size of the ensemble, the three pieces here never sound cluttered. Opening track "The Pier (for Yutaka Takanashi)" allows for plenty of space between notes as the musicians move to the forefront in smaller pairings, the most memorable of which features the growling yawn of a tuba.

"Rope (for Don Ellis)" begins with the sultry pulses of the brass section before shifting into a solo accented by the rhythm section's driving groove. The piece meanders through a sparser middle section, finally regaining structure in a duet between percussionists Michael Zerang and Tim Daisy before the wind instruments return.

The album closes with its longest piece, "Coal Marker (for Chris Marker)," which leaps from the gates with piercing and energetic squeals, settles into a mellower segment and accelerates back to another burst of brass. "Kafka in Flight" has its ups and downs, but overall, Vandermark's compositions succeed when they blend the energy of a featured instrument with the structure of the rest of the ensemble.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 29 July 2011
.: Kafka in Flight on