Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love, Vienna Blue Tomato, 24 October 2011

Another enthralling evening of free jazz and improv from two masters of the art. As with the last time I saw this duo two years ago, the concert showed how the sheer unpredictability and daredevilry of improvised music can translate, when handled with such intensity, into aesthetic realms of beauty and passion. For I can find no other way to describe Vandermark’s astonishing reeds work, the way he constantly fired molten riffs and melodies from his tenor sax while Nilssen-Love orchestrated a vast and enveloping presence on the drums.

It wasn’t all out-and-out Fire Music, though. When he turned to the clarinet Vandermark was tender and jazzy, to which the Norwegian responded with gently brushed and hand-played snare work. That wonderful sense of intuition and mutual understanding, the confidence and will to take the music into new and unexpected directions, was what made the concert so thrilling. As was the fact that we, the audience, were able to watch and listen to this unbridled creativity unfold as it happened.

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