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Dave Rempis: Communication, Improvisation and No Screwing Around

By Published: August 7, 2006
AAJ: "Rip Tear Crunch is the real heart of the recording; it's 28 minutes of all kinds of stuff and I won't try to describe it all. But I do admire its structure; it's an improv, but there's an overall symmetry and structure I like. I think you're on several horns here—alto, tenor and baritone sax?

DR: I think it's just alto and baritone, actually.

AAJ: Fair enough. In any case, the end of the piece has a symmetry with the beginning. It made me think about how you as improvisers have to think about where it's going and where it'll end up—how to get out of it in the end so it's got some structure. Do you think about this when you're playing?

DR: Oh, yeah. Searching for ways to begin and end pieces is kind of the focus of good improvising. I mean, there are many standard ways to do that, whether it's harmonic cadences, or dynamic motions, or whatever. It's really a challenge. One thing about that piece that still kind of boggles my mind is that it is an improvisation and it's not something we talked about beforehand, but Anton and I start that piece off with these almost blues-like, repetitive licks, and we both just came in on that in the same key two clicks off on the metronome. And we rapidly adjusted within the first bar or so of music, so we were both in the same tempo. It was just sort of odd [laughing] that we both came in like that. I think it was the point in the recording session where things were really getting going, and that's what happens on stage a lot, too. But it's still interesting. That's one thing about that band that I really enjoy—that there's this shared sense of the music.

AAJ: I suppose that can only grow after five or six nights on a tour.

DR: Yeah, absolutely. I'm just starting to get some recordings back from the tour we did now, and I'm hoping to put out a live record from that tour. Night after night, it really felt great to be on the road with these guys. It felt like it was growing and that people were doing new things, pushing things. It felt really comfortable, too—with a lot of free improvising, there's a certain about of nervousness before you go on stage, even though this is what we do. It's like, "what's going to happen?

AAJ: Well, it might be bad.

DR: Yeah! That's the thing. It could be horrible [laughing]. But I pretty much continuously felt like we got up on stage and really played music. It was really exciting to be a part of that.

AAJ: As the leader of this band, is there any way that you are leading the improvisations when you're all playing? Are you driving and in charge, or is it four-way communication?

DR: I view it as four-way communication. Ostensibly, I'm the leader of the group, and in some ways that's musical. But more, it's about who books the gigs, who takes care of the logistics, that sort of thing. I put the band together around a certain thing I'm hearing, but I think that everybody in the band is in the band because they're also sharing in that aesthetic. I certainly don't view myself onstage as the person that's controlling things. It's a group. My own idea of this music is that it's collaborative, no matter whose band it may be. To me, that's a really important part of this kind of music. I'm not interested in being in a band in which I'm the leader. I'm much more interested in having strong personalities in the group who push things one way or another, or who make decisions onstage. That's a lot more interesting to me than telling people what to do or forcing people to do certain things.

AAJ: Well, that makes people flinchy anyway. Now I want to talk about your collaboration with Tim Daisy alone—when the two of you perform as a duo. This music has a lot of improvisation, but it has written sections—these are compositions you play more than once, and they have written parts, heads. You put out a CD last, Back to the Circle (Okka Disk, 2005), and I suspect you two'll be playing together forever. You both write for this band, although maybe you write more. I love the way Daisy plays when it's just you two: he's always imaginative, and he plays with such fierce concentration. It always feels like he just won't let the tunes get stale or settled. Got any insight into the Rempis/Daisy Duo? What does this band specialize in?

Dave RempisDR: Ah, god, I don't even know. That's part of the thing with it—every time we get on stage, we're playing compositions that we've been thinking about or dealing with for a while, but the flexibility of the duo format can just go in so many directions. And I think we both are interested in pushing it in those directions and away from where we've taken it before. The flexibility involved with it, I think, is really the biggest thing, because it's just so easy to really push things really far out, and yet still know how to connect it back to the composition to some degree. I think that's really the interesting challenge of the group: maintaining the compositional structures while at the same time throwing them out the window.

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