Musicians from Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, and U.S. meet to play and record new compositions by Ken Vandermark for the Chicago Jazz Fest.
In order for the Resonance Ensemble to come to Chicago at the end of August to rehearse, record, and then perform new music composed by Ken Vandermark at the 2012 Chicago Jazz Festival on September 1st, the group needs to pay for visa and flight expenses to bring the players from Poland, Sweden, and the Ukraine into the United States. Although these costs, and the musician fees, will be covered by the budget provided by the festival, outside resources will be required to pay for studio time needed to document the compositions showcased in a world premier at the Chicago concert. The goal of raising $5,000 with your help to record this new material during the Resonance Ensemble's presence in Chicago is an essential component to the overall success of the venture- it is rare to assemble such a large, international project, and this will allow the group to leave a document of the band's latest material for all the listeners who can't be there at the performance.
After 12 days, the campaign to raise $5000 to support the recording of a new Resonance Ensemble album while the group is in Chicago to perform at the city's jazz festival, achieved its goal. If fans of the project continue to contribute funds to the campaign, the money will first go toward expenses incurred by bringing members of the group from Europe to the United States- visa processing costs and flight charges. Though the Chicago Jazz Festival has given Ken Vandermark a budget to cover the expense of bringing visiting artists to perform with him, this budget also needs to cover musician fees. Any extra money gathered through Kickstarter will be spent on these costs (visas, flights, accommodations, intercity travel needs to get to rehearsals, concerts, and recording, etc.) so that more of his Chicago budget can be split among the visiting artists. Continued fan support of the Resonance Ensemble fund will mean better fees for the members of that band, plus Joe McPhee, Paal Nilssen-Love, and Christof Kurzmann, who are playing with Vandermark in duo and quartet formats during his residency at the festival.
My first regular outlet for composing for a large band was with the Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet. In the early years of that group, from 1998 until the ensemble became a total improvisation unit in 2005, Peter allowed anyone who wanted to bring written material to the group to do so. My pieces designed for the Territory Band were an extension of the discoveries I made while working with Brotzmann's Tentet. In both of these cases the material needed extensive rehearsal in order to be executed properly; finding this time was always a challenge. The first set of compositions I created for the Resonance Ensemble were written over the course of a week long "sabbatical" in Krakow, Poland, during November of 2007. For the first time in my career, I was putting together material for musicians I didn't already know and, in some cases, musicians I hadn't even met. Having Magnus Broo, Tim Daisy, Per-Ake Holmlander, Dave Rempis, and Michael Zerang in the group was essential- not only are they excellent musicians, they were all familiar with the way I wrote music and organized it for improvisers. I knew this would accelerate the learning process for the initial Resonance Ensemble project, when the band played in Lviv, Ukraine, and Krakow, and had 5 days of rehearsals to prepare. In fact, it wasn't clear at the time that there would be a second project with the group, but things went so well creatively it was evident that the band needed to find a way to continue. The second project, which took place in Europe during the fall of 2009, was much more limited in terms of preparation time. In fact, the first of two days was completely lost to bad weather- flights were delayed, some musicians not arriving in Krakow until after a concert of small improvising groups created from the Resonance Ensemble was about to start. With only one full day of rehearsals and a soundcheck to put the music together in time for the ensemble concert, it was a good thing I had re-conceived how I was going to write for the band. Looking back over the decade of composing for large groups and playing in them, it was clear that the issue of rehearsal time was always a major factor in deciding what kind of material would work in performance. Because of this I decided to develop component-base pieces, and organized a modular system of charts. This meant that individual themes were easy to learn, but because they could be re-assembled in an endless number of sequences, the variety in the music always felt open ended. It also meant that the series of improvising combinations and how they related to the written parts was also completely open ended. This system of composition worked perfectly and overcame the limitations on rehearsal time the band had repeatedly been faced with. The music recorded since 2009, "Kafka In Flight," and "What Country Is This?" are the first two documents of this compositional method I'm using with the Resonance Ensemble. In March of 2012 the band toured again in Europe and began working on new pieces/structures that further extend the initial principles of this modular concept. On August 29th the group will record these pieces and a series of brand new compositions, then this material will be presented in another combination for a world premier performance of this current material at the Chicago Jazz Festival on September 1st.
I started working with larger groups of musicians when I was asked to join the Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet in 1998, and that ensemble was a mix of American and European players. After this, I used MacArthur prize funds toward the creation of the Territory Band, the first big group that I led- this band was again a mix of players from Chicago and overseas; the funds from the prize allowed me to put together any unit I could think of, so I invited musicians that I knew no matter where they were from. These combinations of international artists always "felt right," that musicians with different cultural backgrounds belonged together when collaborating on Peter's music or mine. So when I worked with Marek Winiarski of Not Two records to put together a new large band, there was never any doubt that it would be an international unit. First was the idea of working with musicians from Poland and the Ukraine (Mikolaj Trzaska on reeds, Mark Tokar on bass, Waclaw Zimpel on clarinets), a part of the world that I had been visiting more frequently as a performer. Then, after Marek suggested Steve Swell on trombone (a musician I had long admired but had never played with), I immediately had the idea of putting together a dynamite brass section by inviting two musicians from Stockholm, Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba and Magnus Broo on trumpet. Once again, the process of selecting musicians was organic and based on the creative interests and possibilities of the project. Making the Resonance Ensemble an international band was again the logical thing to do.
The Resonance Ensemble began as a co-presentation by American musician, Ken Vandermark, and Polish concert promoter and director of Not Two Records, Marek Winiarski. Vandermark has been performing in Poland since the mid 2000s, with many different groups (the Vandermark 5, duo with Paal Nilssen-Love, Sonore, Free Fall, Powerhouse Sound, the Frame Quartet, among others), and decided that is was time to organize a band that included musicians from that part of the world. After consulting with Winiarski, the two combined their resources and knowledge to organize a large unit of improvisers from the contemporary scene. In addition to Vandermark [reeds], the project included Magnus Broo [trumpet] and Per-Ake Holmlander [tuba] from Stockholm; Tim Daisy [drums], Dave Rempis [saxophones], and Michael Zerang [percussion] from Chicago; Steve Swell [trombone] from New York; Mark Tokar [bass] and Yuri Yarumchuk [reeds] from Lviv; and Mikolaj Trzaska [reeds] from Gdansk.
In November of 2007, Vandermark arrived in Krakow to complete four new compositions for this ten piece orchestra, all of the pieces loosely based on his impressions of time spent in Poland as a musician and traveler. After a week, that work was done and the other artists arrived. For five days the group rehearsed at the Alchemia club during the day, then played in small Improvised Music configurations at night. On November 17, the Resonance Ensemble traveled overnight by bus to perform for the first time, in Lviv, Ukraine. (This concert, which took place for an audience of over 800 people, was recorded, and the second set was released as an album by Not Two in the fall of 2008.) The next morning the band returned to Krakow for a concert at the Manghha Museum, playing to another sold out crowd. All of the performances in Krakow, by the small units and the full ensemble, were released in October of 2009 by Not Two as a 10cd box set; just in time for the band's first tour of Europe.
The Resonance Ensemble's music has advanced Vandermark's composing methods for large groups, work that began with the early version of Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet, and then continued with his own Territory Bands. Much of the first Resonance material combined Vandermark's interest in “suite forms” (perhaps most influenced by Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus) and a collaging approach to improvising structures that he started with the Territory Band. The initial project by the group gave Vandermark his first opportunity to do nothing but compose music for a week. In September of 2009, he began a new approach to writing for the ensemble by using a series of “modular pieces,” which could be reassembled for each performance, giving added spontaneity to both the improvising and the compositional structures. The results of these new compositional strategies, developed over a 10 day European tour, resulted in the album, "Kafka In Flight," which was recorded live in Gdansk, Poland, and is also part of the Not Two catalog.
Vandermark's creative activity has remained committed to the Resonance Ensemble and its innovations. During March of 2011 the band, and its association with Polish culture, was celebrated by the "Resonance Festival" held in both Chicago and Milwaukee; the group's latest recording for Not Two, "What Country Is This?" was made at the end of that week of work. In addition, the ensemble toured Europe for a second time in March of 2012, performing in Austria, Slovenia, Poland, and Belgium; in September of that year the group was brought to Chicago to perform on a series of concerts Vandermark organized as "Artist In Residence" for the 2012 Chicago Jazz Festival. The Resonance Ensemble will record it's fifth album for Not Two at that time.