By Ron Coulter
Scratch and Sniff is a live solo recording from Chicago-based saxophonist, Dave Rempis. It was recorded with a live audience at May Chapel (Chicago, IL) on December 17, 2017 and released on Catalytic Sound in 2020. The album comes in with just over 30 minutes of music.
This is a wide ranging solo concert with Rempis performing on alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. Rempis traverses extremes in dynamics, densities, registers, and timbres stretching from screaming noise to memorable melodicism, and from gritty textures to cascading walls of sound.
The first two tracks, 'When Beggars are Choosers' and 'Tooth and Snail' focus on the noisier aspects of the alto and baritone saxophones, respectively. Rempis’ expert control of extended techniques is readily apparent and his use of those sounds is wielded creatively and expressively. Both tracks have hard charging sections of angular, broken melodic lines that are gritty and beautifully harsh in timbre, amongst slowly developed textures of noisy timbres and whistling pitches reaching the upper limits of the instruments.
The third and fourth tracks, 'Abra Cadaver' and 'Ecclusastics (Charles Mingus)', fall into the free jazz category with a more traditional use of the tenor and alto saxophones, but this is not to say that there is no use of extended techniques, rough timbres, and extremes of dynamics and register being explored. 'Abra Cadaver' showcases ample use of circular breathing to produce endlessly cascading streams of pitches, rarely interrupted by a breath. 'Ecclusastics (Charles Mingus)' uses Mingus’ tune as a jumping off point for an abstract, bluesy excursion that ends with an ecstatic wail.
This is a compelling album of high-level improvising and exploration of the sound potential of the various saxophones. Each track is a well-constructed improvisation expressing a sense of logical, linear development with a compositional sensibility…a pleasure to listen to.