Since 2004, the duo of saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Frank Rosaly has committed to exploring the textural, tonal and rhythmic possibilities of spontaneous improvisation, drawing upon a rich legacy of similar pairings for its studio debut, Cyrillic. Chicago scene regulars whose congenial rapport has been honed in The Rempis Percussion Quartet and The Ingebrigt Haker Flaten Quintet, Rempis and Rosaly's studied interplay lends even the most threadbare of skeletal themes a sense of foresight, making this fully improvised session one of the more concise and cohesive dates of its kind.
Fusing streetwise sensibilities to the avant-garde, "Antiphony" opens the set with Rempis' acerbic alto spiraling with circuitous ebullience over Rosaly's intricate tribal patterns, which subtly transform into funky hi-hat driven backbeats. The tenor driven "Tainos" unfolds slowly, ratcheting up the intensity level gradually, while the epic centerpiece "How to Cross When Bridges Are Out" bookends a brief but mesmerizing interlude with Rosaly's punishing double drum salvos and Rempis' wailing, tortuous alto. Both excursions peak in relentless torrents of sound, invoking John Coltrane's ecstatic duet with Rashied Ali, the classic Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1965).
Demonstrating their dynamic diversity, "Still Will" and "Don't Trade Here" each unfold as pointillist exercises, offering striking contrast to the previous selections; the former operates at the threshold of audibility, the later is an episodic call-and-response structure that reveals their empathetic listening skills. Showcasing his soulful lyricism, Rempis switches to baritone for "Thief of Sleep," as Rosaly dances gingerly around his muscular, bluesy drones, providing well-placed flourishes. The vivacious closer, "In Plain Sight" orbits an angular bop theme, sending Rempis' pneumatic baritone cadences and Rosaly's swinging ride cymbal and percolating snare into a gleeful frenzy, ending the album with a joyous noise.
Now an established part of the jazz canon, the improvised saxophone and drum duet has three decades worth of iconic partnerships to draw inspiration from; John Coltrane and Rashied Ali, Anthony Braxton and Max Roach, Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille, Paul Flaherty and Randall Colbourne, Peter Brotzmann and Nasheet Waitsthe list goes on and on. Rempis and Rosaly have only just begun documenting their working relationship in this format. Cyrillic is an impressive start.
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Personnel: Dave Rempis: alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; Frank Rosaly: drums.