Vector Families – For Those About to Jazz/Rock, We Salute You (2017)

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Perhaps it’s just human nature, but often I’ll look at a title and start drawing some conclusions about the music behind it ahead of time. For instance, I was certain that the Vector Families’ For Those About to Jazz/Rock, We Salute You (out September 8, 2017 via Sunnyside Records) was going to be a Jeff Beck-styled tribute to AC/DC. It’s not, but it’s no less provocative.

The Vector Families is a Minneapolis fusion supergroup that’s sprung forth from a long-time musical connection between drummer David King and bassist Anthony Cox. Toss in guitar madman Dean Granros and sax ace Brandon Wozniak and you have a combination that might not conjure up memories of “Highway To Hell” but often does share the same sort of ferocity.

“Free Funk” is just what the opening track is, Cox’s fat bass lines setting the harmonic parameters, King laying down a straight ahead beat and Granros applying sharp mathematical lines. Wozniak counters with a clearly defined melody, and before things could possibly begin to get boring, King is off to the races and everyone follows him through the obstacle course. The electrified freedom might call to mind Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time Band and perhaps Vector Families did have Coleman on the brain, as they also covered Ornette’s “Dee Dee.” That tune, however originated from the avant master’s mid 60s acoustic trio and VF’s take on it winds up being the most straight ahead thing they do on the whole record. For a while, at least: jamming to an easy swing, Granros’ introduction of the “Dee Dee” theme a full four minutes in signals a runaway tempo and the guitarist and saxophonist both interact with one another using Cox’s bass train as their guide. The high point comes when Granros’ razor lines find communion with King’s fiercely unbounded drums.

This isn’t ball-to-the-wall metal avant jazz everywhere, though. “10,000- Year Old Rotary Club” does eventually get there, but only after simmering thoughtful nuance for a very long time. “African Dictaphone” keeps a lively, free-flowing vibe going from beginning to end, featuring Granros’ midi guitar mimicking a xylophone.

Wozniak is often called upon to set the melody so that the rest of the guys can run wild. Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” is barely recognizable amid Cox’s and King’s loping groove until the sax player sketches it out. But probably more notable is that the abstract piano figures competing with Wozniak isn’t from a piano at all: that’s Granros on a Guitar Band video game controller.

“Duetz Duetz” is also the product of thinking well outside the box; Cox on cello faces off one-on-one with Granros (on acoustic guitar) in a chamber jazz setting. Cox then hands off to King to make this a Granros/King pairing, followed by Wozniak and King continuing the hushed mood with a duet of their own but in keeping with the pattern of the other performances, some agitation creeps in by the time the end is reached.

So while For Those About to Jazz/Rock, We Salute You really has nothing to do with AC/DC, Vector Families has that kind of intensity level and spunk. Only with way more improvised gumption.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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