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Sound In Action Trio - Gate

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Artist: Sound In Action Trio

Album: Gate

Label: Atavistic

Review date: Aug. 27, 2006

At any given time, Chicago-based multi-reedist Ken Vandermark has at least a half-dozen bands in action and ideas for a few more. Each one has a personal or aesthetic focal point that distinguishes it from the others; you'll find the reason for Sound In Action Trio's existence encoded in the name of their second album. No, they aren't paying tribute to Gate, the solo project by the Dead C's Michael Morley. But this band affords Vandermark a way into the moment when jazz first went out, and also a way to get deeper into rhythm.

The Trio's other members are both drummers; 30-year-old Tim Daisy also plays in the Vandermark 5 while Robert Barry, more than four decades his senior, is a veteran of Sun Ra's Arkestra, has played on recent celebrated recordings by Daniele D'Agaro and Fred Anderson, and has also played countless gigs in nameless steak joints and jazz clubs. Barry affords his younger comrades entrance into jazz eras they'll never know first hand, giving them glimpses of both the day-to-day grind of a jobbing musician in the middle of the last century and a ground zero view of jazz's first freedom cries. Half of Gate's tunes are covers, all of them in one way or another connected to the point where jazz shed its bebop exoskeleton. This band takes Albert Ayler's "Love Cry" and Herbie Nichols' "House Party Starting" at a more relaxed clip than the composers of each tune did, investigating instead the sturdy merits of their melodies; on the other hand Sound In Action jacks up the density and intensity of "Togo," an exploration of West African rhythms that Ed Blackwell originally wrote for Old And New Dreams.

As befits a combo with two men at the traps, there's a lot of mixing and matching of grooves here, but Daisy eschews the full-bore attack he brings to, say, the Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet in favor of a restraint that matches Barry's loose and spacious style. Vandermark's originals are all dedicated to drummers, but these are not straightforward tributes. There's none of Paul Lytton's uncompromisingly arrhythmic forms in "Slate" or Paul Lovens' frantic clatter on the noirish "Medium Cool"; indeed, these tunes go further into inside, metrical time than is usually Vandermark's wont. The relative accessibility of the material makes this record an excellent place for a free jazz neophyte to begin, but the care and elegance that the Trio brings to it will reward any listener. Now tell me this; when is Gate going to put out an album named "Sound In Action Trio?"

By Bill Meyer

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