logo  Territory Band-2 / Atlas (OD12050)
Musicians Ken Vandermark — reeds
Jim Baker — piano
Jeb Bishop — trombone
Axel Dörner — trumpets
Kevin Drumm — electronics
Per-Åke Holmlander — tuba
Kent Kessler — bass
Fredrik Ljungkvist — reeds
Fred Lonberg-Holm — cello
Paul Lytton — drums
Tim Mulvenna — percussion
Dave Rempis — saxophones
Cover and Artwork cover
Photos: Angeline Evans
Design: Louise Molnar

1. Add and Subtract [for Jean-Michel Basquiat] (13:01)
2. Neiger [for Michael Snow] (16:32)
3. Catalog [for Fred Lonberg-Holm] (12:13)
4. Now [for Samuel Beckett] (18:21)
Total Time: 60:11
All compositions by Ken Vandermark (ASCAP)

Recording Info

Produced by: Ken Vandermark
Executive producer: Bruno Johnson
Recorded: at Airwave Recording Studios, Chicago on February 15 & 16, 2001
Engineered by: John McCortney
Mixed by: John McCortney and Ken Vandermark with extensive assistance from Kevin Drumm and Fred Lonberg-Holm
Thanks to the MacArthur Foundation.

Liner Notes The music should speak for itself. If so, what’s the reason for these liner notes?

When the first Territory Band album, Transatlantic Bridge, was released in February of 2001 there seemed to be some confusion over the piece "R-M", which included two long silences. Several copies of the album were actually returned to Okka Disk because their owners thought there had been a mistake in the mastering (though why they thought an error like that would have escaped the label is hard to understand). More disturbing, however, was the number of music critics who asked me if the use of those silences was intentional. The fact that they felt the need to even ask this question suggests that they think I don’t fully consider my materials or the way that they function. This is insulting, to say the least. The lengths of those silences were primarily determined, and definitely pushed, by Paul Lytton. Compositionally, it was my attempt to get the listener to "hear" their environment for some moments, a kind of homage to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades and the way they get me to see something everyday as something new.

I believe, if the intentions and presentations are true, the music will speak for itself. However, the problem is that today the journalists and critics who cover improvised music are too often ignorant about their subject. In the long run the music will have the final say, but for the time being improvised music is frequently described and analyzed by writers who, frankly, don’t understand what they’re talking about. For many years I avoided using liner notes because I got tired of seeing them used as primary material for a review — the critic’s job was to assess the music themselves, not transcribe what someone else had written about it. I had hoped that by only using basic details about dates, titles and personnel I would force them to form their own conclusions. Unfortunately, when they did, there were too many cases where those conclusions misrepresented the music through misinformation and/or ignorance, whether their opinions were positive or negative. These notes are an attempt to prevent this from happening for Atlas. My apologies to those writers who do their job well. For those of you who don’t, you should start considering how many musicians you’ve pissed off because of the lack of responsibility you feel towards your subject — we’re getting fed up.

The first version of the Territory Band was based on the idea of pairs: two brass (Jeb Bishop and Axel Dörner), two reeds (Dave Rempis and myself), two strings (Kent Kessler and Fred Lonberg-Holm), and two rum sets (Paul Lytton and Tim Mulvenna). Jim Baker was included on piano because of his brilliance and originality. The second version of the group added to the original lineup through expanding the brass and reed sections (Per-Åke Holmlander and Fredrik Ljungkvist respectively) and adding electronics (Kevin Drumm). This version of the band convened in Chicago during February of 2001, about a year after the first project took place, to work on new material for performance and studio documentation.

The extended range of sounds that were now available (especially the addition of Kevin Drumm’s use of electronics) and my growing interest in, for lack of a better term, "unresolved abstraction" (the best example being the form on "Neiger"), seemed to initially confuse some members of the band, not least of which myself. The process with the materials that seemed so clear on the first set of music (contained on Transatlantic Bridge) was, at first, much more ambiguous on the second project. I give my extreme thanks to the ensemble for their ongoing patience with my conflicting directions as the pieces were shaped. The four compositions on Atlas: "Add and Subtract", "Neiger", "Catalog", and "Now", need to be understood as frameworks for large group improvisation. The eleven other musicians are, I believe, as good as players get in this department and the final form the written material took was in very large part developed by their spontaneous reinterpretations of what the scores indicated. I think that it’s unnecessary to describe the musical events on these recordings; it should be possible to hear them. Many musicians "solo" on each piece, but "Neiger" was meant to feature the work of Kevin Drumm, "Catalog" was written with Fred Lonberg-Holm in mind, and "Now" was meant to feature Jim Baker and Paul Lytton.

In closing I’d like to say a few words about the people who helped inspire the compositions. "Add and Subtract" is dedicated to the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. His pieces are magnificent, and I have a particular fondness for the "jazz paintings" which capture the kinetic energy of be-bop and its lexicon. "Neiger" is for Michael Snow — filmmaker, visual artist, and musician. Aside from the artistry he has brought to the avant garde for decades, he has added to it a much needed sense of humor and grace. As stated before, "Catalog" was written for Fred Lonberg-Holm, in part because he kept bugging me to do it, but mostly because of the opportunity it provided to compose something that specifically featured one of my favorite musicians. The last piece, "Now", is for Samuel Beckett. I hope that someday I’ll be able to express my ideas with the level of clarity and strength found in his writing. As with many of the pieces I’ve written for various artists and friends over the years, these compositions aren’t meant to replicate or reinterpret someone else’s work or personality, they’re a way of saying thanks for making this world a better place. Right now, in these bitter times, their gifts are needed more than ever.

— Ken Vandermark, June 2002

Reviews (this is a review of a live concert on February 16, 2001 by Territory Band - 2)

In the 1920s, jazz “territory bands” toured pockets of the Southwest, developing their styles in performance and in relative isolation. They fostered a regional approach to articulation and rhythm that ultimately had a profound effect on jazz at large, by influencing the influential Count Basie.

Composer and saxophonist Ken Vandermark’s 12-piece Territory Band 2 — the slightly smaller TB1 has a new CD on OkkaDisk — fosters a distinctly Chicago approach that’s anything but provincial, and has wider implications. Thanks in no small part to its leader, players here work with European colleagues far more often than improvisers in other American cities. TB2 includes Swedish tubist Per-Åke Holmlander and saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, German trumpeter Axel Dörner and English drummer Paul Lytton. And Vandermark sifts through their improvisational dialects for ideas he can use himself.

Throughout the band’s boisterous 90-minute set at the Claudia Cassidy Theater Wednesday evening, one could hear echoes of still other Europeans he’s worked with. He’ll map out shifting combinations of players in advance, while leaving the content of their improvisations open, a la Dutch bandleader Misha Mengelberg. He’ll offset free-jazz horn barrages with more subtle passages, a la German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, in which Vandermark is a key presence. With a hand gesture, he’ll cut off an improvisation, or inject a short bit of scored material into the action, a la the Dutch band LOOS.

The rest of Territory Band 2 is made up of worthy Chicagoans, including raunchy cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and the increasingly impressive trombonist Jeb Bishop. The differences between American and European improvising styles were symbolized by the two drummers: at times Tim Mulvenna’s airy swing contrasted sharply with Lytton’s metallic clanging and more open pulse. But the strongest contrast was between two locals: pianist Jim Baker, injecting welcome lyricism into the mix, and Kevin Drumm on agreeably disruptive crackling electronics.

Vandermark fully exploits such disparate personalities; the band thrives on variety. Every few seconds, it seemed, a new combination of players came to the fore, then receded into the background, as another took its place, or some disarmingly pretty little melody rose above the fray. The risk with such episodic music is, the episodes are almost inevitably of uneven quality. Sometimes the short written horn fanfares made more of an impression than the improvisations they punctuated. Dörner, a very capable trumpet player, is rather too fond of blowing air through his horn without sounding a note. It’s become a schtick.

Overall, Vandermark’s diverse gambits feel not like nervous hopping from one style to another, in the manner of 1980s postmodernism, but a gloriously expansive ensemble vocabulary. His one misstep is to let most pieces run on too long, covering too much territory, when one climax would be enough. But he learns by doing. Expect TB3 to be better yet.

— Kevin Whitehead, Chicago Sun-Times