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Friday, June 14, 2013

Wheelhouse: Boss of the Plains (Aerophonic, 2013) ****

Two new releases from Dave Rempis' Aerophonic Records (Part 2)

To celebrate, and of course publicize, the start of a new label Aerophonic Records, we thought to place the first two releases on consecutive days (see yesterdays review). Anything that has such well thought-out presentation certainly gets a thumbs up from our side. On these first releases the attention paid to details in terms of layout and recording quality is a real pleasure which adds to the whole listening experience, whilst the CD packaging adds to the pleasure of buying it. If you check out their website (see below) you can get a look at the CDs and listen to some sound samples. 

Wheelhouse: Boss of the Plains (Aerophonic, 2013)

Reviewed by Joe

Dave Rempis is off to a running start with the first two releases on his new label. The other record also reviewed here is a continuation from his raunchy Rempis Percussion Quartet - their sixth album? Dave Rempis is not unlike his Chicago sparring mate Ken Vandermark, always developing a new project, or reworking older units, keeping his music fresh. The projects he's involved in are always creative units and often high energy, examples being The Engines, Rempis Percussion Quartet, or Ballister. On this new release, the second on the label, the music is of a more personal nature.

Wheelhouse is a co-operative group and "Boss of the Plains" is their first record. The music they make is as intimate as improvised music can get and I guess could be categorised as chamber free jazz. The direction and sound of the group, a sort of calm searching, reminds me a little of Jimmy Giuffre's trio. However, Wheelhouse's music has no themes, launching themselves into each piece they (I imagine) test-the-waters as they swim. Dave explains in the press release how the trio came about when Nate McBride "relocated to Chicago". The group originally playing compositions gradually moved away from this idea and developed their present improvised concept.

And the music? Well each tune has the word 'Song' in it. We have "Song Sex, Part 1", "Song Hate", "Song For", "Song Juan", "Song Heaven", "Song Tree", 10 pieces in all. As mentioned earlier it is chamber jazz, something to sit down and really listen to. Its intimacy is complimented by the way it's recorded giving the impression that you're sitting 'in' the room with the guys! Being in such close proximity is like watching someone step from stone to stone picking their way across a river. With no drums, the blend of vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), double bass (Nate McBride) and Dave Rempis's saxophones gives the music a chance to breathe.

The musicians take full advantage of this combination, playing off each other in a way that true jazz is meant to be played. Dave's use of either alto or baritone sax on the compositions adds different colours to the music. His playing reminds me at times of Ornette, a sort of strange melodicism, or is that harmolodicism? He also uses his sax in inventive ways adding different shades to the improvisations by over-blowing, multiphonics, or other extended techniques. Jason Adasiewicz and Nate McBride also stay equally inventive, constantly looking for other ways to use their instruments to make music in a creative and supportive way. There are many moments where all three musicians find a sort of symbiosis, seemingly thinking as one, "Song Hate" being a particularly good example.

Certainly a fine album and a group which would be well worth while seeking out live I imagine.  

The albums are available from June, 11th, but you can also order them from, On their website, you can listen to "Song Sex, Part 1" and "Song Hate".  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.

Can be purchased from