Ken Vandermark

The Field Within A Line
(Corbett vs. Dempsey)

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.