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Dave Rempis: Communication, Improvisation and No Screwing Around

By Published: August 7, 2006
AAJ: A wildly successful restaurant at that.

DR: Yeah. It's a great place. So we were doing that for a while, and then at some point it seemed like it would be a good idea to add drums. And I think that that also allowed Jim to bring in his ARP, to try out the synthesizer. So we tried that for a few times in the summer of, I think, 2003, and started doing quite a few gigs as a quartet around that time. This is a band that to me was a bit more abstract, in a way—less time-oriented, more sound-oriented. But with Jim playing piano, there was a harmonic element to it which was pretty great. Actually, probably my favorite thing on that record is the piano solo he takes in the middle of the record that's about three minutes long. I think it starts "Out of Season, Part III. It's a beautiful piano solo.

Jim is absolutely one of my favorite musicians and improvisers. He's really someone who, every time he sits down to play, comes up with a completely creative and new solution to the same problem, on the same piece of music, whether it's written music or whatever. He is just the consummate improviser, in the real sense of the world, and it's really exciting to play with him. So I think in a lot of ways, the band was built around that.

AAJ: I knew I loved his analog synth playing, but I hadn't realized what a fabulous pianist he was. Is this band defunct?

DR: At this point, yeah. We pretty much stopped playing a couple years ago, I think. It was just a combination of everyone doing a million things and the fact that, in a way, we kind of got to a point where we'd exhausted some of the possibilities. To me and, I think to some of the other guys, it seemed like, "okay, let's move on.

AAJ: Well, it happens with improv. You can run out of the stuff.

DR: Yes, exactly. I think a learning process is a big part of this music for me, and when it gets to the point where it feels like we've dealt with this territory before, and it isn't necessarily something new, and that continues to happen—it's a sign that maybe it's time to move on and try something else.

AAJ: The next band I want to discuss is Triage. This is a trio of you, Tim Daisy and bassist Jason Ajemian. Your newest CD is American Mythology (Okka Disk, 2004), the group's third.

DR: Actually, there's another new one out called Stagger (Utech, 2006), that came out in February. It's probably all sold out at this point, but it's a live record that came out on Utech Records.

AAJ: Hmm, I want that record. This is in some ways your least abstract, most ass-kicking band. The themes are composed with this group, and it's pretty muscular stuff—it swings hard when it wants to and there's plenty of room for some wrenching soloing. In some ways, something like "Crystal Set is as close to straight-ahead jazz as you get, although the band is good at all kinds of stuff and the compositions are excellent. "In the Afternoon is one of my favorites—your alto almost sounds like Lee Konitz. I don't know why I keep coming up with modern-jazz legends you sound like in this interview.

DR: If you want to compare me to Lee Konitz, I can live with that.

AAJ: Okay, tell me about this group.

DR: Triage is a really important band to me and, I think, to the other guys in the group. It's something we started in 2001; we were all [laughing] relatively young at that point and I think it was really a workshop-type group for a long time. We were trying a lot of things, rehearsing regularly, playing gigs all the time. We did four or five tours with that group, three of which were two to three weeks long. But we were also playing in Chicago at least twice a month when we were all in town. To me, it's a really long-term group that did a lot of work and really managed to develop a lot in that process. That's really a touchstone for me in terms of my own development.

As far as the music goes, I think you're right. We tried a lot of different things—some things worked, some things didn't. We kept pushing forward on some fronts and let some others go—but that was kind of the point of the band, to try a wide range of stuff. And to try to create something perhaps more organic than some of the other groups that we're involved in, where it wasn't about necessarily executing compositions in a particular way, but more about trying to find different ways to play the same composition over and over. Different ways to navigate through these signposts within a composition.

AAJ: The concept was not having so much of a concept.

DR: Exactly.

AAJ: You keep talking in the past tense. Is this band over?

DR: We've been taking a break for a while, actually. Everybody's been really busy touring and doing other things. Last September, I think, was our last gig and at that point we decided to take a little break for a while. But we've been talking about trying to do something again in the fall.

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