Audio One - An International Report

Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone
Jeb Bishop: trombone
Josh Berman: cornet
Tim Daisy: drums
Nick Macri: acoustic and electric bass
Nick Mazzarella: alto saxophone
Jen Paulson: viola
Dave Rempis: saxophones
Ken Vandermark: reeds
Mars Williams: reeds

Having initially conceived of Audio One as a vehicle for interpreting the work of others, it wasn’t until a conversation with an enthused fan that Vandermark considered the possibility of writing for the ensemble, maintaining it as an ongoing concern. ‘An International Report’ presents five original compositions recorded at the same concerts from the Green Mill which yielded ‘The Midwest School’, four of which are dedicated to Midwest composers Braxton, Hemphill, Mitchell and Threadgill (the fifth is to Anna Karina). In light of the first disc, that the quality of the arrangements is consistently high is unsurprising, and again the strength of the musicianship is exemplary. However, the remarkable facet of this recording is Vandermark’s writing, and how well drilled the ensemble are to execute it. Never one to shy away from ‘difficult’ music, yet always keenly aware of the immediacy of the groove, the material here walks a line between being, at times, almost academic in its structural design, and yet hip-shakingly immediate in its direct focus of energy. Knowing he’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Vandermark essentially manages to get his audience to experience music with the gravitas of an Art House film, by making it appear to have the same easy digestibility and energetic pacing as a Hollywood Blockbuster.

Having a group comprised of local, well rehearsed musicians pays off in spades (it doesn’t hurt that they represent much of the cream of Chicago’s current crop), and across both discs they navigate the material with a control and focus which does justice to the strength of the compositions. Fully aware of the potential force generated by all ten playing simultaneously, they do so sparingly to maximise its impact, often only small aggregations of musicians play at once. The subtlety with which the ensemble interacts ensures that what could so easily become muddied through sheer strength of numbers is in fact lean and lithe, intricate when called upon, with a taut muscularity in the throw down. Like a prize fighter, the ensemble moves with all the nimble dexterity of a small group when needed, bobbing and weaving until an opening presents itself, delivering precise jabs or opening out to rain down a concentrated torrent of blows. Hailing from a city which has had a hand in producing some top class large ensembles in recent years, Audio One is instantly a contender to the throne.

Matthew Grigg, Free Jazz Blog, 2014