"For Ken Vandermark, nomenclature is serious business. The names he assigns his ensembles - Territory Band, Free Fall, Powerhouse Sound, Made to Break - reference historical antecedents and aspirations. So what to make of Shelter, the appellation given to the saxophone and clarinet player's excellent new combo with trumpeter Nate Wooley, percussion and electronics player Steve Heather, and bassist/guitarist Jasper Stadhouders? Most obviously it establishes a space in which four distinct musical forces can explore potentialities. Wooley is one of Vandermark's most enduring collaborators of recent years; their work as a duo finds common ground in the improvisational freedom that can be derived from rigorously composed material, but they both like to play many other things. Stadhouders is a member of the trio Cactus Truck as well Vandermark's Made To Break; heavy and shattered grooves are his speciality. Heather is an Australian whose strongest musical associations are with improvisors based in Amsterdam and Berlin. Collectively their experience encompasses jazz, free improvisation, electronic noise, new music, and more across Shelter's nine tracks late-night balladry rubs elbows with baleful funk and room-clearing power electronics. Each member is free to put any of those elements into their compositions so long as the piece sustains its internal integrity.
Shelter's name makes even more sense when you consider how it recalls Survival Unit, the name that Vandermark's hero Joe McPhee has given variously to different groups and a tape recorder he used to bring to gigs where he suspected that the other musicians might not show up. A band can be a practical solution to a variety of problems. The erosion of arts funding and tightening of border make it harder than ever to convene larger configurations, and it's handy for a couple of Americans who visit Europe often to have partners situated in two of Europe's sturdiest scenes waiting for them. It's doubly useful That these versatile players can switch from chamber interaction to high-speed funk in a second; these guys have it all covered.
-Bill Meyer, The Wire

View full review


  • 1. F-1 [08:20]
  • 2. Accidentals Don't Carry (Clarinet) [06:43]
  • 3. Burnt Nijal [08:48]
  • 4. J-1 [07:13]
  • 5. Of Use [03:30]
  • 6. Bartleby [08:11]
  • 7. Drinks & Logistics [07:36]
  • 8. B-1 [06:28]
  • 9. Pan [06:03]

5 and 9 composed by Steve Heather (APRA).

2 and 7 composed by Jasper Stadhouders (BUMA/STEMRA)

1, 4, and 8 composed by Ken Vandermark (Twenty First Mobile Music/ASCAP-Cien Fuegos)

3 and 6 composed by Nate Wooley (fourwordseamusic/BMI)

Music performed by

Steve Heather: drums & crackle box

Jasper Stadhouders: electric bass & guitar

Ken Vandermark: reeds

Nate Wooley: trumpet

Recorded on May 13th, 2016 by Marco Birkner at studio h2, Berlin.

Mixed by Steve Heather. Mastered by Dave Zuchowski at One Room Studio.