After you’ve watched the local music scene for a while, you can’t help noticing how the some old people keep rearranging themselves into new lineups, constantly looking for just the right juxtaposition of abilities and styles that will really click. It appears that woodwindist Ken Vandermark has now had some good fortune; his group already sounds like a real unit, as opposed to the kind of ad hoc aggregations that make up so much of the local jazz scene. The guys in this extremely promising quartet are all adventurous artists with a lot going on in their heads, and they’re busy composing instead of wasting time running through old standards. Listening to either Vandermark (who also gigs with the rock act the Waste Kings) or bassist Kent Kessler (best known for his work with the late Hal Russell) is a good lesson in how to make full use of technical facility without sacrificing intellectual content, formal restraint, or that brute-power thing that some people think you can only get from rock ‘n’ roll. These two establish a forceful flow that gives drummer Michael Zerang plenty of room to play melodically with the top end of his set. This month’s series of Tuesday-night gigs at HotHouse gives us the chance to hear new guitarist Todd Colburn (from the rock band Spies Who Surf, if you can imagine) work his way into the fold. Though he still sounded a bit tentative last week, hearing him do such lovely things with texture and distortion in a jazz context is already a very pleasant surprise. Tuesdays, 8:30 pm, HotHouse, 1569 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Debra E. Levie.