The Vandermark 5
The Vandermark 5 play free jazz in the vein of Ornette Coleman’s craziest stuff at times, while at others playing soft, Kind Of Blue-style jazz. About half of Acoustic Machine is very spastic and crazy, not the kind of jazz one listens to when looking to relax. The other half is warm and welcoming, high quality smooth jazz. To give a proper explanation of “free jazz” to non-jazz enthusiasts, The Vandermark 5 is often to jazz what Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth is to rock.
Acoustic Machine is a crazy romp through various themes, my favorite being the smooth and sexy “Fall To Grace.” The saxophones are warm here, no herky jerky rants, just fluidity and cool… very cool. The drums on “Fall…” are so soft they’re almost unrecognizable, but it works very well for the track. This is definitely the highlight of the record.
On “License Complete,” the band turns up the sauciness and really lets the sleaziness come out of their pants! The drums here are very dancey, yet in a slow manner, creating a naughty feel. The plodding bass and festive clarinet solo make this 100% pure ’70s porn soundtrack music.
“Wind Out” finds the band rockin’ out with reckless abandon! The drums are frantic, the saxes behaving badly and all hell breaking loose!
With the exception of the annoyingly aimless spastic free jazz (see “Auto Topography,” “Close Enough,” and the various “hbf”s), Acoustic Machine is simply great jazz. Very cool and snappy. The album ends with a real classic, “Stranger Blues” which will make even the most cynical tap their feet. If you’re looking at this review out of curiousity, this is really worth checking out. The first pressing also comes with a free bonus CD, so try to get your hands on that one (I don’t know anything about it, because it didn’t come with my review copy). Very good stuff.