Last night we saw The Thing with Ken Vandermark at the Roundhouse. Hoo-ah. I went in fully prepared to be blown away by Vandermark (as you've no doubt figured), but was equally if not more blown away by The Thing!
The set started with Vandermark on tenor and The Thing's Mats Gustaffson on baritone sax. Gustaffson is kinda built like Ben Grimm and plays approximately as if it were, indeed, clobberin' time! Barely as tall as his horn, but wide in the chest, Gustaffson was blowing this deep foghorn tone, like baun-n-n-n-n! Baun-n-n-n-n! And Vandermark was doot-doo-duh-loo-loo! And Ingebrigt H. Flaten on the bass: a-thrumb-bumb-a-lumbum. And then Paal Nilssen-Love (pronounced lew-vuh) on a tiny little drum kit, doing things I can't even spell! Like, usual drums sounds but also, he did this thing at one point, rubbing the skins and making them squal like a soprano sax or something.
Throughout the set, Gustaffson switched off to an alto sax, and Vandermark blew his own baritone, as well as a clarinet. At one point, both Vandermark and Gustaffson were laying it down on baritone and, I swear to god, my teeth rattled.
Suffice to say, I walked in a Vandermark fan and walked out a Thing fan.
Earlier, in the same room, the Parker/Guy/Lytton/Fernandez fourpiece played a set of even freer jazz. I don't mind free jazz, and I really like improvisation, but this--this was not my thing. It was four guys doing their own thing independent of one another, I mean, they weren't playing together, they seemed barely aware of one another. I dunno. Evan Parker is a big name, he even played on a Scott Walker album, but it was not my thing. Which is not to say that I couldn't see the merit in it. I think it's good to see and hear things you don't understand or necessarily like. If for nothing else than to be able to not just be an ignorant playa hata.
In other news, George Carlin died earlier this week. I interviewed Carlin in 2003 (the story ran on Saturday, November 15, 2003, if anyone has a subscription to Infomart and wants to send me the text, that would be awesome) for the Leader-Post, and Carlin was a great interview. A lot of times, comedians are terrible interviews, but Carlin was sharp and he told me a great story about when he was still coming up and got booked for an extended stay (sometimes I wish I had kept better records of my interviews and articles, but alas!) in Regina during the winter, and the thing he remembered most about Regina was walking up Albert St. and all of the moisture in his nostrils froze solid. I remember writing a lukewarm review of his show for his over-reliance on four-letter words and shocking language. Having grown up with all the folks who followed in Carlin and Pryor's footsteps as far as that goes, I was well-versed in foul language long before I even understand the metaphors behind most of it.
mp3: "Better Living" by The Thing