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Blowing In From Chicago: Tim Daisy and Ken Vandermark Friday at Convivium 33

Tim Daisy Ken Vandermark
Tim Daisy, Ken Vandermark

Being a creative musician in Chicago almost demands a willingness to play anything, everywhere with everybody. Percussionist Tim Daisy and saxophonist Ken Vandermark, who will appear at Convivium 33 Friday, Jan. 13, embody that imperative as well as anyone, having collaborated with hundreds of musicians, movement and visual artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet despite lengthy resumes that suggest an affinity with musical speed dating, the two are just as committed to long-term relationships, especially their own.

Their mutual history dates to the late 90s when Daisy, 46, was a regular audience member for the Vandermark Five’s celebrated residency at the Empty Bottle. “I would go every week to listen because I loved the band,” Daisy told me by phone from his Chicago-area home. At the time, he was taking lessons from the band’s drummer Tim Mulvenna and when he decided to move on, Daisy took his place. “I joined the band in 2000 or 2001, and Ken I have been working in quintets, trios, duos, large groups on and off pretty much from that time up until 2016 when I took a break from touring [to] start raising a family.”

Daisy hasn’t exactly stood still over those two decades. He’s a frequent presence on the Chicago scene, tours widely and records prolifically. Somehow, he finds the time to run a record label, Relay Recordings, which has issued more than 70 releases.

Amid this swirl of activity, the collaboration between Daisy and Vandermark has been a constant. What keeps the musical relationship fresh and alive after more than 20 years?

As prosaic as it might sound, consistency. “I’ve never been on a gig with him where he’s phoning it in,” Daisy says of Vandermark. “I’ve been on gigs where I’m like, Man, I just traveled 15 hours. I  didn’t get to eat anything. I’m feeling like crap. But he somehow finds a way to maintain this consistent focus in his music, whether it’s totally free, or playing his compositions or other people’s compositions, and that kind of focused intensity is really, really inspiring.”

Daisy was also drawn to the way Vandermark improvised with form. “A lot of the jazz I first started listening to was ABA, circular forms, chord changes. What drew me to Ken’s music was how they’re moving the music and setting up different types of landscapes, a completely different way of organizing sound,” Daisy says. “I learned later that [Vandermark] was influenced by film. I was in a band with him for a while called the Frame Quartet that was all about figuring out new ways to restructure material like how you structure film. His way of constructing the architecture of his music has been really inspiring for me.”

The Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project (CUSP), which is presenting the concert, also indulged in a bit of restructuring to bring Friday’s concert to the stage.  The organization is well known for presenting contemporary classical performers such as bassoonist Dana Jessen, who will precede the Daisy/Vandermark duo Friday evening. But Stephan Haluska, who programs the CUSP series, had seen Vandermark at the Beachland Ballroom and was, he said, “blown away. When Tim Daisy approached Cleveland music organizers, I jumped on this. I wanted to make sure this happened.”

In their duo settings on such recordings as Consequent Duos: series 2a (Catalytic Sound, 2020), and Light On The Wall (Laurence Family Records, 2009), you can hear how Daisy returns the favor, framing the action and steering the dialogue with subtle provocations like a player in a John Cassavetes film.

It’s a delicate balance, and one that is enriched by the perspective Daisy gained from his frequent solo concerts.  “Before I perform with another musician, if I’ve been through a period of solo activity, I try to think about listening more,” he says. “When I’m collaborating, I want to push and pull. I want to listen and respond. I’ve been intrigued for years with that idea, and how to make it work, how to adjust. I think a lot more about about using less when I’m collaborating, and that puts me in a space where the music opens up and breathes a little bit more.”

Ken Vandermark and Tim Daisy with Dana Jessen, Friday, January 13, 7:30 p.m. at Convivium 33 Gallery, 1433 E. 33rd St., Cleveland. $15 available at the door.

Trading Fours

Four musical events in the coming week that you might want to check out.

Ernie Krivda Quartet
Friday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m.
Treelawn Social Club, 15335 Waterloo Road, Cleveland (tickets)

Cleveland’s newest club and its most venerable jazzman: sounds like an intriguing combination, no? That’s exactly what will be in store when Ernie Krivda takes the stage at The Treelawn Social Club, the newest venue in the buzzy Waterloo entertainment district. If the website isn’t quite built out when you click the link above (it was not at presstime), try calling 216-677- 8733.

Nathan-Paul Davis All The Sudden
Saturday, Jan. 14, 8:30 p.m.
Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road, Cleveland (tickets)

While we’re on the subject of Waterloo, saxophonist Nathan-Paul Davis brings a high energy band including bassist Smokeface, Gabe Jones on drums, vocalist Skuff Micksun and  DJ TYC to the Beachland. Expect big beats and a sea of bodies on the move.

Eli Naragon
Saturday, Jan. 14, 8 p.m.
BLU Jazz+, 47 E. Market St., Akron (tickets)

If you’re still grieving the Browns’ loss to Pittsburgh Sunday, try not to dwell on how Cleveland also lost bassist Eli Naragon to the Steel City last year. But fear not. The former Oberlin student returns this weekend to support his recent release, “Homage” with a quad of All-Pros: Theron Brown, Chris Coles, Zaire Darden and Tommy Lehman.

Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble
Sunday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m.
Dionysus Club (the ’Sco), 135 W. Lorain St., Oberlin (free; the event will be livestreamed)

Aidan Levy’s new biography of tenor colossus Sonny Rollins is getting a lot of attention lately, which should rightly increase the interest in the 92-year-old master’s music. What better way to scratch that itch than to hear it played by an ensemble created at Oberlin with the support of Rollins himself?

Information for this section came from Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events.

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