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Spaceways Incorporated



Chicago reed player and free jazz heavyweight Ken Vandermark never seems to run out of ideas for new projects. One that had been simmering at the back of his mind for some time was the notion of putting together a band that would pay homage to two of his biggest influences: the late great interstellar traveler and free jazz pioneer Sun Ra and that merry band of funky freaks known as Funkadelic. In early 2000, that's exactly what he did, recruiting super-bassist Nate McBride and drummer Hamid Drake (best known for his work with Fred Anderson Quartet) to form Spaceways Incorporated.

In mid January of 2000, the trio recorded Thirteen Cosmic Standards by Sun Ra and Funkadelic. The band goes for an extremely visceral reading of most of the numbers, only occasionally veering into ethereal otherworldly territory. Vandermark's sax and clarinet are front and center on almost every song, dipping and leaping and twirling like a gymnast on uneven bars. McBride's muscular acoustic and electric bass and Drake's dazzling intricately patterned percussion provide the foundation for the Spaceways sound. The featured "Street Named Hell," marked by Vandermark's eerie, elliptical bass clarinet melodies and a terrific, exciting minute-long percussion solo by Drake, is a reworking of a track from one of Sun Ra and his Interstellar Arkestra's earliest efforts, the 1956 record Sun Song.

For their 2002 release Version Soul, Spaceways Inc. recorded a batch of original compositions by Vandermark and McBride with Shellac's Bob Weston. Their second album smoothly finds the trio interweaving all of their dub, funk, soul, and jazz influences to give them an even more defined group sound. Big rolling percussion and a warm, lazy sax give the featured "Size Large" its pleasurable organic, expansive feel.