Born in Warwick, Rhode Island on September 22nd, 1964, Ken Vandermark began studying the tenor saxophone at the age of 16. Since graduating with a degree in Film and Communications from McGill University during the spring of 1986, his primary creative emphasis has been the exploration of contemporary music that deals directly with advanced methods of improvisation. In 1989, he moved to Chicago from Boston, and has worked continuously from the early 1990's onward, both as a performer and organizer in North America and Europe, recording in a large array of contexts, with many internationally renowned musicians (such as Fred Anderson, Ab Baars, Tim Barnes, Peter Brötzmann, Tim Daisy, Hamid Drake, Terrie Hessels, Mats Gustafsson, Elisabeth Harnik, Steve Heather, Didi Kern, Kent Kessler, Christof Kurzmann, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Lytton, Lou Mallozzi, Lasse Marhaug, Joe McPhee, Andy Moor, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Paal Nilssen-Love, Eddie Prevost, Eric Revis, Jasper Stadhouders, Chad Taylor, John Tilbury, Nasheet Waits, Mars Williams, Nate Wooley, and C. Spencer Yeh).
His current activity includes work with Made To Break, Marker, Lean Left, Shelter, DEK, The DKV Trio, Fire Room; duos with Paal Nilssen-Love, Tim Daisy, Terrie Hessels, and Nate Wooley, as well as work as a solo performer. Since June of 2015 has been co-curator of Option, a music series held on a weekly basis at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago. In 2014 he began an independent label, called Audiographic Records, created to document special aspects of his work through albums and books. More than half of each year is spent touring in Europe, North America, Russia, Brazil, and Japan, and his concerts and numerous recordings have been critically acclaimed both at home and abroad. In addition to the tenor sax, he also plays the bass and Bb clarinet, and baritone saxophone. In 1999 he was awarded the MacArthur prize for music.