The Lineup


Ken Vandermark & Tim Daisy Duo

Chicago, Ill.

Ken Vandermark & Tim Daisy Duo

Free jazz résumés don’t come much more sterling than those of Ken Vandermark and Tim Daisy. Respectively a saxophone and clarinet specialist and an uncommonly adventurous drummer, the men are fixtures of Chicago’s fertile scene for uninhibited improvisation.

Himself the son of a noted jazz critic, Vandermark came to Chicago after leading groups in Boston, but none of that previous work comes close to his achievements since landing in Illinois in the early ’90s. His Vandermark 5 bridges the gap between experimental rock and the most ambitious jazz, finding room for nasty funk grooves, guitar riffs as raunchy as any garage band, and wind instruments that assault listeners with wonderfully weird tones and patterns. Daisy plays in The Vandermark 5 as well as The Engines, a mercurial ensemble that includes trombonist Jeb Bishop, saxophonist Dave Rempis and bassist Nate McBride.

Vandermark and Daisy are frequent collaborators outside of the 5, playing often as a duo and releasing records in that configuration in both 2010 and 2011. As you might expect from two players who know each other so well, they are very attuned to each others’ styles. Vandermark’s saxophone wows; it’s capable of launching from delicate wanderings to harsh, atonal blasts. His transitions are both shocking and obvious. Daisy complements him with equally adaptable rhythms. When Vandermark is at his most delicate, Daisy counters with lightweight skitters. When the saxophonist leaps to wilder extremes, the drummer erupts into concussive cannonades.

Vandermark and Daisy are two of the most exceptional free jazz players in the world. They’re perhaps at their uninhibited best when playing together. —Jordan Lawrence