“After arranging two cds of material written by other composers for “Free Jazz Classics Vols. 1 & 2,” I was interested in trying to find another approach for Volume 3- which was originally a bonus disk included with the first edition of “Acoustic Machine”. I considered a number of ideas before deciding to focus on the work of one artist, and was directly inspired in this decision by Archie Shepp's album, “Four For Trane”. Hence, “Six For Rollins”.
The fourth volume of “Free Jazz Classics” will likely be the last. Though I have learned a great deal by rearranging some of my favorite composers' work for the VANDERMARK 5, it's time to leave that process behind and focus more completely on my own ideas. I hope that this series of recordings has served a purpose of some kind, perhaps giving listeners an indication of musical thinking that's inspired me- while shedding a small amount of light on artists who I feel have been sometimes overlooked and/or misunderstood.
Maybe investigating the groundwork for the improvised music from the 1960's and 70's taught me that it was time to get off the shoulders of those artists, in order to look in another direction.
Maybe the point has come when it's necessary to realize the only music worth playing is happening now.”
-Ken Vandermark, European trains and hotel rooms- November, 2005
The Vandermark 5's Free Jazz Classics, Vols. 3 & 4 is the last double-disc set in the Free Jazz Classics series, according to Ken Vandermark's liner notes. The two artists Vandermark focuses on here are Sonny Rollins -- particularly his "Alfie Suite" -- and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The Rollins set was previously issued in a limited-edition double disc of the V5's Airports for Light, and the Kirk set was included in limited-edition double packaging with Elements of Style...Exercises in Surprise. Both these albums were recorded live at Chicago's Empty Bottle in 2003 and 2004, respectively. The "Six for Rollins" disc (inspired by Archie Shepp's Four for Trane) is tight, solidly arranged, and the tune selection is great. It opens with "The Bridge"; the interplay between Vandermark, saxophonist Dave Rempis, and trombonist Jeb Bishop is remarkable. Another notable is the second part of the "Freedom Suite," included here, and the "Alfie Suite" offers a keen view of the deep listening that occurs in this band. The opening part of the cut with Bishop's slow, leisurely trombone solo working through the melody brings out the blues underneath the compositional sketch, as Vandermark enters slowly, harmonizing quietly on the changes. The real blowing begins at about seven minutes, and the swinging blues as it walks the edges of free playing is astonishing. The Kirk disc, entitled "Free Kings -- The Music of Roland Kirk," concentrates equally on the pre-Kirk Mercury, and Emarcy period material -- Vandermark assembled suites from the We Free Kings and Rip, Rig and Panic recordings -- and chose select other material from the Atlantic years such as "The Inflated Tear," "Black and Crazy Blues," and "Silverization/ Volunteered Slavery." The two discs are very different in mood and style with the latter being less, intense perhaps, but still looser, riskier, and genial. Bishop's solo on "Black and Crazy Blues," is pure hard bop-blues swinging. Suites Vandermark arranged are wonderful, full of surprise and great humor -- something you wouldn't expect from him, but you did from Kirk. If you didn't have a chance to pick these up on their original release, now's your chance. This set is not to be missed.