Platform 1 – Takes Off (CF 255)
The suggestively named ensemble Platform 1 is constituted by top drawer improvisers from several different scenes. Reeds player Ken Vandermark and trumpeter Magnus Broo have long experience together from various ensembles and shared friendships, and they’re joined on the front line by the superb trombonist Steve Swell. The group is rounded out by an engine room stoked by bassist Joe Williamson and drummer Michael Vatcher. Their music takes on a lot of different aspects, but it’s often rather rolling and rambunctious, with an energy and even some arrangements that recall mid-1960s Archie Shepp to some extent. No fear of derivative music here, though, as the compositional framework and the instrumental vocabularies are far more contemporary (even if Swell does owe an audible debt to Rudd, a fine thing that). For example, for every boisterous yawp and raggedly swinging passage, the band is as likely to move crisply into a clacking, Braxtonian pulse track to focus their energies differently.
But, possible influences aside, a lot of the pieces here are not only vehicles for terrific playing (the brass players in particular won me over) but are great expressions of these players’ personalities and backgrounds. Broo’s jaunty, swaggering “Portal #33” and uproarious “Dim Eyes” recalls the enthusiasms of his work in Atomic (and to a lesser extent those of a different, Broo-less band, Exploding Customer). Vandermark sounds really good throughout here: lusty and focused on “Dim Eyes” (which also boasts killer work from Vatcher), sweetly melancholy on his marvelously assured ballad “Stations” (for CF honcho Pedro Costa),” and funky as hell on his Rudd dedication “In Between Chairs.” Speaking of funk, Swell’s “Compromising Emanations” hits the sweet spot just after the nicely groaning textural piece “Deep Beige.” A smart, well-balanced set overall.