Fight the Big Bull Goes to Chicago

Fight the Big Bull
Fight the Big Bull

Story by RVAjazz.com
Photos by Jake Lyell

About two years ago, Patchwork Collective organized a Richmond performance by avant-garde mastermind and saxophonist Ken Vandermark and his group Free Music Ensemble. Blown away by this performance, Patchwork co-founder Matthew White began trying to glean new knowledge about music and the business from Vandermark. White looked to Vandermark as a mentor and for the next few years, questioned and corresponded with him through email. When White's group Fight the Big Bull released their EP in 2007, he sent a copy to Vandermark, receiving enthusiastic acclaim in return. White recalls last July, upon Vandermark's return to Richmond, the Chicagoan mentioned bringing Fight the Big Bull to Chicago. "So of course I followed up on that comment like crazy and he ended up setting these shows up," White says.

On Sunday night, Fight the Big Bull will play at The Hungry Brain with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm of Vandermark 5 opening. After two solid days of rehearsing with Vandermark himself, Fight the Big Bull and Vandermark will join forces to perform at The Hideout on Wednesday night. "Our set on Wednesday," White explains, "will be comprised of new tunes that both he and I wrote for this occasion"

With just a "scouting report" written by White listing the strengths and weaknesses of the band and its members, Vandermark composed his contributions to the show. He insisted that the two composers write the charts with little discussion between them, so the results should be interesting. His compositions tend to be rather unorthodox, using harmony in a non-traditional way, or ignoring it all together. Some of his style has influenced White and his writing for Fight the Big Bull. For example, "Rhythmically, the way he writes for horns is real tight. One thing is the way he makes the Vandermark 5 sound so big: part of that is really embracing the power of one horn and what it can do and Iíve tried to do that. Itís tempting to double everything or harmonize everything because you have five horns, but one voice can be really powerful."

White describes Vandermark "like an old rich uncle. The amount of biz questions I have asked is absurd. Sometimes I think he must get so sick of it." He shares a similar relationship with trumpeter Steven Bernstein, possibly placing another Fight the Big Bull traveling opportunity and guest artist on the horizon.

The show is being recorded and its release will be left up to Vandermark. White jokes that if the release was left in his"hands rather than Vandermarkís, he would "release anything with both [their] names on it.Ē Fight the Big Bullís album Dying Will Be Easy is set for release sometime this summer by Clean Feed Records. Vandermark introduced Clean Feed to White, prompting him to contact them about Fight the Big Bull. Says Pedro, the labelís main contact, about the rough-mixed EP he received in the mail, "We all loved it here and decided to release it. It fits perfectly well into the catalogue of current Clean Feed artist by their strong identity and unsuspected commitment to the music. We are truly happy to release such a record by people [we] have never heard about before."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The Hideout
w/ Special Guest Ken Vandermark
9:30 pm
[where: 1354 West Wabansia Ave., Chicago, IL 60622]

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