The Vandermark 5 was formed during the spring of 1996. Since that time it has been a major outlet for the compositional and improvisational ideas of Ken Vandermark, whose thinking has been developed through years of work with groups like the NRG Ensemble, AALY, the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, the Free Music Ensemble, School Days, Free Fall, and the Territory Band.
Trying to organize a small unit with the capabilities of a large ensemble, he needed and chose four exceptional musicians to join him on the project: Jeb Bishop: trombone/guitar, Kent Kessler: bass, Tim Mulvenna: drums, and Mars Williams: saxophone. During the past decade the quintet’s line-up has evolved and now, in addition to original members Vandermark and Kessler, it includes the extraordinary saxophonist Dave Rempis; Tim Daisy and his powerful work on percussion; and the cello/improvisation master Fred Lonberg-Holm.
Each of the current members has years of performance experience working with a wide variety of music. This, coupled with the range of instrumentation and stylistic potential held by the ensemble, allows Vandermark to compose material that runs the gamut of musical possibilities; he incorporates elements of jazz history, contemporary composition, funk and rock into the group’s music. Even so, the band’s focus remains on improvisation. Each piece is arranged to allow ample room for the members to interpret and reinterpret the writing; this creates an environment where they are constantly interacting and utilizing their unique ideas in a spontaneous way.
In the spirit of the great bands scattered throughout the history of jazz, the Vandermark 5 has concentrated on live performance as the means to hone its skills and develop its concepts. For several years the quintet played on a weekly basis at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Now the ensemble has shifted their concert schedule to focus on the road, and they tour in North America and Europe on a regular basis.
Their most recent work included a trip to Europe in November of 2006 to support the release of its newest album, A Discontinuous Line. After this, the band recorded a new set of material that will be released by Atavistic in the coming year. In February of 2007 the quintet will tour in the United States and Canada, performing music developed in the year and a half since Lonberg-Holm joined the group in the summer of 2005. Despite its longevity this musical unit continues to develop, while creating new methods for the investigation of composition and improvisation. With their history together and the current possibilities at their disposal, the Vandermark 5 will clearly remain “a modern-day band for the jazz ages.”—Penguin Guide To Jazz on CD.