By Josef Woodard | Published November 2021
Chicagoan saxophonist Ken Vandermark has established himself as an important figure in “outside” jazz. But the operative “O”-word, often misunderstood or confining, engages dimensions and references beyond simpler descriptions, a point embodied in Vandermark’s striking new solo album. It kicks off the Corbett vs. Dempsey label’s Black Cross Solo Series, linked to artwork by famed Chicago-born artist Christopher Wool.
The Field Within A Line implies larger statements and concepts through small and subtle gestures. The dozen pieces here convey a breadth beyond the solo context’s leanness of means. Vandermark is in no rush to fill spaces, instead embracing them, making each count.
The album’s short-ish pieces pay tribute to artistic heroes from music (including avant-icon Anthony Braxton and Coleman Hawkins on “No Other Suit”), but more often in the fields of fine art and cinema. For example, a pained figuration seeps through his ode to painter Francis Bacon (“Counter Space”). A deceptive litheness lines his bass clarinet ode to poetic directors Robert Bresson and Abbas Kiorastami (“Another Household Word”).
Closer to home turf, he blows a bluesy haiku on “Shared Testament,” honoring Chicago saxist/trumpeter Joe McPhee and his own jazz scribe father, Stu Vandermark. The outsider comes in out of the cold, in heartfelt homage mode.
The Field Within A Line: Feet On Main (for Robert Frank & Gordon Parks); Imagine The Paper (for Philip Guston & Dieter Roth); Arcade Of Persuasive Language (for Samuel Beckett & Thomas Bernhard); Portable Nowhere (for Robert Irwin & Richard Serra); Shared Testament (for Joe McPhee & Stu Vandermark); End The Giraffe Lottery (for Chris Marker & Agnes Varda); Counter Space (for Francis Bacon & Kerry James Marshall); Every Waiting Room (for Chantal Akerman & Pina Bausch); No Other Suit (for Anthony Braxton & Coleman Hawkins); Another Household Word (for Robert Bresson & Abbas Kiarostami); Capture Chaos (for Tarsila do Amaral & Hélio Oiticica); Looking Back At Looking Forward (for Ola Trzaska and Marek Winiarski). (49:05)
Personnel: Ken Vandermark, saxophones, clarinet.
Ordering Info: corbettvsdempsey.com