A swinging artifact from Toronto’s recent past, where a shotgun wedding between the technical sophistication of free jazz and the relentless rhythms of punk rock seemed inevitable, “The Story of Vektor” is very much a representative of its time.
Led by bassist and sometime vocalist Victor Bateman, Vektor operated in an area midway between the Shuffle Demons’ jive and Whitenoise’s dyspepsia. Sophisticated, high-class musicianship shares space with clearly defined beats and Bateman’s sardonically delivered lyrics. Besides Bateman, Vektor constants were tenor saxophonist Perry White, playing with more prickly and funky pacing than today, and trombonist Stephen Donald, who when not harmonizing with the saxophonist, exposes outstanding flutter tonguing on pieces such as Head in a Bottle.
Three changes each in the guitar and percussion chairs here reflect the band’s evolution and search for new sounds. Barry Romberg for instance, brings a jazz sensibility with his drumming; Graham Kirkland is more of a rocker; and Stych Wynston’s approach is somewhere in-between. It’s the same story with guitarists Mark McCarron, Kim Ratcliffe and Martin Rickert. The third is the most versatile, producing ringing string reverb on Life is a Crutch, then turning around to create hushed, atmospheric runs on Desolate Country.
More than 20 years on, some of the Vektor crew have allied themselves with more experimental sounds; others make their living as conventional jazzers; some have vanished altogether. Still, despite a few overly familiar arrangements, this CD is particularly valuable as a reminder of a time when jazz-rock fusion was a recipe for trying unusual blends, not a marketing label.