VWCR - Noise Of Our Time

Label: Intakt Records, 2018

Personnel - Ken Vandermark: saxophone, clarinet; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano; Tom Rainey: drums.

Noise of Our Time is the debut album by VWCR, a recently formed quartet with some of the most formidable avant-gardists out there – the notably articulated Ken Vandermark on saxophone and clarinet, the enigmatic Nate Wooley on trumpet, the captivating Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, and the trustworthy Tom Rainey on drums. With the exception of the latter, each member brought three compositions to the recording.

The band’s creative vein and improvisational flair are immediately felt on Courvoisier’s “Check Point”, which prompts Vandermark to embark on wild activity, having patterned melodic conductions running underneath. When Wooley steps ahead, he is offered wonderful support by the nonpareil bass-less rhythm team.

Vandermark’s “Track and Field” comes to life in a brooding, droning legato. An apparent erratic direction leads to consistent horn counterpoint, prepared piano attacks, and mind-boggling pulses from Rainey’s quirkily tuned drums. Although the piano work is crucial here, none of the musicians claim the center because they are already there, contributing with their own insight. The tune ends with sparse drum beats counterpointing compulsive horn accents.

Sparks” is one of my favorite pieces and a brilliant invention from Courvoisier’s musical mind. It features bright unisons, intersecting improvisations, and synchronized movements loaded with elegance and playfulness.

The vital flame that envelops “Tag” is initially lit by Rainey’s skittering tom-toms and cymbal work, but then the spotlight rotates, firstly concentrating on Vandermark, who blows out deft phrases with extraordinary intensity, then on Courvoisier, always edgy without losing that soft gliding appeal, and finally Wooley, whose abstract impromptu incorporates sketchy lines and terse remarks. The trumpeter wrote “Songs Of Innocence” with nearly philosophical sagacity, creating a fascinating framework where the suspenseful and the dreamy combine. The mood is perfect for Vandermark’s fast rides on clarinet, having a more serene Wooley contributing to the continual energy flow.

Despite the silences and fragmented phrasing, “Truth Through Mass Individuation” is rich in tonal colors. It has something impulsive in its ways, spilling out a panoply of musical figures that dance either in frictional counterpoint or amiable partnership. If Rainey’s snare activity marches on with rattling effervescence here, then on “Simple Cut”, the divergent yet fittingly accomplished closing track, he adopts a low-key posture, a circumstantial condition shared by his bandmates.

Traversing challenging paths together and exploring them with distinctive class, these four experienced players are at the peak of their powers in an unmissable avant-jazz session to revisit many times. 

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
03 - Sparks ► 05 - Tag ► 06 - Songs of Innocence

DKV Trio & The Thing - Collider

Ken Vandermark: reeds; Kent Kessler: bass; Hamid Drake: drums; Mats Gustafsson: reeds; Haker Flaten: bass; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums. 


Joining two of the most well-established free/avant-garde jazz trios of our times on the same recording can be simultaneously bold and risky. However, the idea is not a novelty for DKV Trio, which already teamed up with AALY Trio in Double or Nothing (2002) and Gustafsson/Nilssen-Love/Pupillo in Schl8hof (2013). 
In Collider, the undamaged, piercing sounds of DKV and The Thing trios merge, evincing a high compatibility without losing a bit of identity. None of the formations superimpose to the other, but rather combine efforts for striking us through their bracing sonic textures.

The American DKV Trio, active since 1996, has drummer Hamid Drake, bassist Kent Kessler, and multi-reedist Ken Vandermark as its pillars while the nordic The Thing, whose debut was in 2000, is composed of Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, Haker Flaten on bass, and Mats Gustafsson on reeds. 

Collaborations with individual musicians are not uncommon practices for the trios - DKV had saxophonist Fred Anderson and guitarist/bassist Joe Morris on their side; The Thing joined forces with vocalist Neneh Cherry and Sonic Youth’s singer-guitarist Thurston Moore. 
The three extended tracks of Collider, driven by fluent, improvised melodic interactions and insane rhythmic locomotion, were recorded live in 2015 at Manggha Hall in Krakow, Poland.

The opening tune, “Cards”, shows a top-notch sextet dropping wild cards on the table and winning us over with an upfront attitude that brings raucous sounds wrapped in hard-and-groovy bass-drums contractions and expansions. The energy can be felt in every section, where the expansive languages of free jazz and rock music cross with an upbeat power funk of colossal intensity. We have the perfect notion that there’s a multitude of creative possibilities for these wild cats.

Moving Map” is 24 minutes long and opens with two bowed basses and the clamant, high-pitched notes of Vandermark’s clarinet. They seem to be asking for Gustafsson’s tenor saxophone, inviting him to take part in the game. When that happens, the tune is immediately reshaped into an ultra-rapid rhythmic blast. Minutes later, it suffers another mutation, this time settling on a hypnotic African-style pulse with baritone ostinatos on top. A polyrhythmic dialogue between the drummers brings unexpected Latin aromas before the band returns to the relentless untamed spirit they are known for.

Left And Left Again” draws darker atmospheres on the account of the bassists’ sinister lines. In order to frame this picture, industrial rhythms are put up with the same vigorous collective improvisations atop.

The impactful Collider is a delight for any enthusiast of the modern creative jazz genre. This is what happens when six members with this level of technique and creativity team up. They punch you in the face while keeping you dancing at the same time. 

         Grade  A+

         Grade A+

Label: Not Two Records, 2016
Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Cards ► 02 – Moving Map