Jazz drummers rarely play together. This is not an entirely bad thing, given the way dual-drummer setups have been abused. In the 1950s drummers might square off in (un)pitched battles–a chance for Buddy Rich to try to deafen Gene Krupa or Max Roach, say. By the 70s a real drummer was likely to be obstructed by a junior percussionist armed with chime racks, bell trees, and other fusion-era crud. But the right drummers can weave a polyrhythmic web around one another without bumping heads. After all, jazz has thick roots in West Africa, where communal percussion is normative (at least since musicologists have been keeping track of such things), and in some rhythm sections the players interact like multiple percussionists anyway–there’s a reason we admire hard-thumping bass players and pianists who liberate the box’s 88 tuned bongos. Convened by Ken Vandermark, the two-drummer, one-reedist Sound in Action Trio is powered by Robert Barry, who learned plenty about playing with other drummers as a member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the late 50s. And in his more recent duo work with Fred Anderson, Barry’s layered drumming suggests the same sort of rhythmic complexity usually found in a good backing trio. The first version of Sound in Action featured the meticulous Tim Mulvenna as well; he’s now replaced by Tim Daisy, also his successor in the Vandermark Five, who’s really blossomed over the last year. His chops are admirable, but I come away more mindful of his musicality; his tuneful touch and airy time are a pleasure to hear, and he’s a good listener–someone Barry can probably do business with. Last time I heard Vandermark trot out his assorted reeds, his clarinet work was especially forceful, as if he’d been immersing himself in his Ab Baars records. The repertoire, as heard in previous gigs and on the trio’s 1999 Delmark CD–tunes by Ra, Monk, Coleman, and Vandermark–is calculated to get the juices flowing. Wednesday, January 8, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jim Newberry.