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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx (Aerophonic Records, 2013) ****

Two new releases from Dave Rempis' Aerophonic Records (Part 1)

Following the contemporary trend of artist control and responsibility as to producing, releasing and distributing albums, Chicago based saxophonist Dave Rempis (The Engines, Ballister, Rempis Percussion Quartet, Vandermark Five) has founded Aerophonic Records, the platform on which the majority of his output will be released in the future. The debut albums for the label are “Phalanx” by The Rempis Percussion Quartet and “Boss of the Plains” by Wheelhouse, Rempis’ new group.

The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx (Aerophonic Records, 2013)

Reviewed by Martin Schray

A busker is playing his saxophone under a canopied entrance of an office building in the southern parts of Manhattan. It is around 9 p.m. and the streets are not as busy as usual because there is a thunderstorm coming, the clouds look frightening. You can see the first drops and suddenly the first hailstones are coming down. The people are looking for shelter. But the man on the saxophone just keeps on playing, battling against the pattering of the rain and the hailstones and the roar of the thunder. He is not afraid, he is actually enjoying the situation.

This is how Dave Rempis (saxes) must feel in his Percussion Quartet (a band originally formed for a house party!), which consists of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (b), Frank Rosaly (dr) and Tim Daisy (dr). Their new album “Phalanx” is a two-CD set of live recordings made in Milwaukee (CD 1) and Antwerp (CD 2) and it presents them at the peak of their art.

The first track, “Algonquins”, is a classical free jazz piece turned upside down. Usually a band needs at least a few seconds or even some minutes to find itself but here it feels as if you were put in a Formula 1 racing car, Rempis and his quartet are at full speed from the very first second, and it is incredible how the saxophone counters the rhythmic barrage. Only after seven minutes he pauses and when he re-enters, there is a different track dominated by a steady monotonous pulse set by Håker Flaten in front of African and Latin American rhythms. Rempis pulls out all the stops from Sonny Rollins lines to Brötzmann phrases and he prevails, just to reduce velocity and to end the track in an almost intimate dialogue between the musicians.

The other tracks also display this very raw and raucous energy based on the relentless powerhouse of a rhythm section combined with Rempis’ brave blowing. On the other hand there are also occasional moments of quiet, yet intensive exploration like the beginning of “Cream City Stomp” or almost absent minded solos (Håker Flaten in the same piece and in the 48-minute “Anti-Goons”), lost in thought duos (especially in the first part of “Anti-Goons”) and implied swing interludes and drum duo conversations (“Croatalus Adamantooths”).

The albums are available from June, 11th, but you can also order them On their website you can listen to ”Algonquins”.  If you're interested in buying a copy take a look at Aerophonic's 'about' section of their site to see where, and who, is distributing the records in your neck of the woods.

To be continued tomorrow with Boss of the Plains.