The Field Within a Line (Black Cross Solo Sessions 1)


With his riveting performance in the inaugural Sequesterfest online festival in April 2020, Ken Vandermark inspired the Black Cross Solo Sessions. Already in the early days of lockdown, making good on the promise -- or threat -- of protracted off-road time, Vandermark had dedicated himself to the creation of a new book of works for solo reed instruments, which he debuted that day. The result of this watershed moment for the Chicago-based improvisor and composer was a body of works that reassert his seriousness and test his ability to reflect and reevaluate. The compositions, which are platforms for invention, are dealt with in relatively economical, almost stripped-down fashion, ringing with a kind of bell-like clarity and focus. Most tracks are on the shorter side, straight to the point, featuring the rippling intensity that is a Vandermark hallmark, but with an altogether reborn sense of purpose. Pieces are dedicated to filmmakers, photographers, and painters, musicians, choreographers, and writers, pointing outward from the hermetic situation of the pandemic to a network of creative icons. Recorded at home in the detailed chamber sonics of his living room, they offer a bulwark against adversity -- the triumph of an endlessly questing mind over the terror of enforced stasis. Liner notes by Vandermark, cover art and design by Christopher Wool.

Corbett vs. Dempsey on Black Cross Solo Sessions: "In our lifetime. We hear this phrase repeated often these days. About things we have never experienced. The sense of global isolation imposed by COVID-19 has literally given us pause, required reflection on something unique in our lifetime. Musicians have been particularly hard hit by the virus, its travel bans and supply chain clogs. They faced an exaggerated number of unfamiliar conditions, many of them adverse, some of them career threatening and anxiety provoking. All of a sudden, players who were accustomed to the constant refreshment of different partners in shifting circumstances found themselves alone at home. But... what better time, we thought, to make a solo record? A production collaboration between artist Christopher Wool and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Black Cross Solo Sessions culminates in eight individual responses to the predicament of creative music during this unprecedented moment in our lifetime. All of the BCSS packages feature artwork by Wool, a distinctive black cross image that has been a part of some of his work since the outset of the pandemic, in this case decisively laid atop images of his paintings. The musicians have worked under a range of conditions, recording where possible -- at home, out in the world, or in the studio -- and each release has its own backstory, a highly contingent tale that speaks to the adaptability of creative musicians, their resilience and power in the face of a devastating obstacle. A personal statement. A singular response. The solo record is a special challenge. Nowhere to hide, no place to run."