Thursday, October 20, 2011

Side A's "A New Margin"

When I first slipped this shiny silver disc in the player, I felt my '60s Blue Note sensor being activated, but not in the way I usually experience -- e.g., via echoes of Out To Lunch, the '60s album that seems to exert the most inescapable influence on today's exploratory jazz musos.

Rather, A New Margin's confluence of a reedist who's adept on a number of different axes and thus has an array of tonal colors and effects at his disposal, a pianist with a percussive attack and powerful technique in service of ideas that are alternately abstract and melodic, and a polyrhythmic drummer who never lets his thunder overwhelm his musicality, put me in mind of Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures, even though that estimable album was the handiwork of a larger ensemble than a mere trio like Side A.

But maybe I'm selling these fellas short. All three of the members of Side A -- prolific Rhode Island-born, Chicago-based multi-reedman Ken Vandermark; Norwegian pianist Havard Wiik; and Vandemark's fellow Windy City denizen Chad Taylor, who's also drummed with guitarist Marc Ribot's Albert Ayler tribute band and indie rockers Iron and Wine -- are accomplished composers as well as adept improvisers. Side A is a collective in the best sense of the word: Vandermark and Taylor each contributed four compositions to A New Margin, while Wiik supplied three.

Like Unit Structures, the music on A New Margin is ruminative, winding its way through a variety of moods in a series of episodes that sound through-composed, although they leave plenty of room for expressive interpretation. The intentionality of the group's attack and the musicians' ability to stir both the intellect and the viscera with their performance are stunning. Side A was a brand new outfit when this album was recorded last October, but they emerged fully formed. I look forward to hearing further installments in their odyssey. Cop via Clean Feed.


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