Reedist Ken Vandermark presented the latest installment of his long-running Territory Band last night at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. It was an impressive concert, revealing the international ensemble as one of Vandermark’s most rewarding and exciting vehicles; his episodic writing and meticulous arranging does a masterful job of sparking a variety of improvisational situations.
Things like instrumental combinations, rhythm, and color can’t be isolated from the composition in which they’re embedded, but the performance allowed discrete elements to emerge. A passage that featured only bassist Kent Kessler and Swedish tuba player Per-Ake Holmlander put the focus on low-end sounds, as the bass bounced and the horn blubbered in some gloriously gut-rumbling statements. Each section of the set-length piece flowed nicely into one another—an area where Vandermark is improving—but the real satisfaction was in getting absorbed by each one of them.
Fred Anderson was the featured soloist, and it’s to Vandermark’s credit that he challenged one of his biggest heroes by putting him in unfamiliar settings: it’s a sure bet that the veteran tenor saxophonist had never dueted with the kind abstract electronics that Norway’s Lasse Marhaug produced. Anderson has an unflappably patient, deep-toned style, ruminating over the subtlest intricracies of a given phrase, and Vandermark presented some frenetic sections that created a nice tension while set against Anderson’s playing. The concert was recorded for future release on Okka Disk Records, the former Chicago imprint that’s issued all of the Territory Band recordings, including the brand new 3-CD effort by Territory Band-5, A New Horse for the White House.