By contrast, saxophonist Ken Vandermark and his Vandermark 5 offer another take on free improvisation. Fathered in noisy, blare-it-so-the-drunks-can-hear-it Chicago bars like the Empty Bottle, the Vandermark 5 fuse the delicate let's-treasure-this-lonely-sound-for-a-long-time abstraction so common to European free improvisation with an up-front, visceral playing rooted in rhythm and blues. Call it Midwest working-class free improv, the kind of gig to which you can shepherd a wary friend without ruing the consequences.
For a foretaste of the Vandermark 5, their latest record, Airports for Light (Atavistic), definitely merits a listen. With funky, squonky brass lines and rackety drumming reminiscent of early-1970s Soft Machine, Airports slinks out of your speakers with seductive solos and bluesy melodic lines. Indeed, the only drawback to the album is the damn cursive text, which makes the titles impossible to read, a stark contradiction to the Vandermark 5's down-to-earth, no-bullshit sound. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
The Vandermark 5 play Sun July 6 (Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave NW, 547-6763) at 8:30 pm, $12.