Saxophonist Ken Vandermark's massive discography runs the gamut from solo albums to quintets and everything in between. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship grant, the Chicago resident doesn't worry about being too prolific: "My interest is not in the albums. It's in the music." On Wed., Jan. 21, he and trumpeter Nate Wooley perform at The Warhol, each playing a solo set, then together in a duet.
What is it like playing solo on saxophone and clarinet?
Playing solo is the most difficult format challenge for me. I attempt to invent the material at each performance, which is a risk — but one that signifies the point of trying to improvise at the edge of what you know, and I like that. [The duet sets] work with original compositions that we improvise with, mostly composed by Nate and I and, in addition, a piece by John Carter and one by Bobby Bradford.
How is the landscape for improvised musicians now, compared to say, 10-15 years ago?
It depends on a shifting set of variables: The audience in one country seems to become more interested in the potentials of improvised music and another moves away from this. But, in general, the landscape of improvised music thrives on listeners who are curious about music as a whole, not pre-described categories.
With the MacArthur Fellowship, did you have an idea of how you wanted to use it?
The idea was simple — put it into the music I loved to realize more options and possibilities. And yes, I was able to do that.