During several tunes on Live at the Glenn Miller Cafe (Wobbly Rail), the new recording from the AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark, you can hear the audience erupt in midperformance cries of delight. Vandermark and the trio’s leader, Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, have developed a palpable connection–the album’s first cut, Vandermark’s “Unit Character,” opens with the two horn men navigating complex lines in perfect unison–but their bond is even more evident when they let go of the song’s head, exploding into piercing, screamed harmonics and prickly split tones. Within seconds they’ve come back together, their separate voices locked into a furiously violent improvised dance that climaxes with a flood of extroverted wailing. (They achieve a similar effect on a lengthy introduction to Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts.”) Vandermark and Gustafsson don’t always play in tandem–they leave each other plenty of solo space too–but their divergent styles do seem to spring from the same taproot. Though Vandermark could duel brilliantly with Mars Williams in the NRG Ensemble, his relationship with Gustafsson has more depth; they can tangle like wildcats, but they focus just as often on subtle, quiet interplay. And the trio’s rhythm players, bassist Peter Janson and drummer Kjell Nordeson, are similarly versatile: they can match the saxophonists’ most harrowing outbursts or float into gorgeous lyricism, and every time I’ve heard the group tackle Charlie Haden’s “Song for Che,” Janson has adorned it with a different feather-delicate melody. (He was unable to make this trip, unfortunately; his spot will be filled by Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten.) The AALY Trio will play without Vandermark on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday he’ll join them and bring along bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Hamid Drake–his partners in the DKV Trio–for a six-way brawl. Tuesday, 10 PM, and Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. A few days later Nordeson will play vibes on a mix of originals and songs from Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch! with an ensemble featuring Vandermark, Kessler, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and drummer Tim Mulvenna. Next Friday, September 24, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sven Boija.