The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Montreal Parade (2011)
Descriptive misdirection seems to be an important element in some sectors of the jazz world today. A group called The Nels Cline Singers puts out records where nary a vocalist can be found, and The Rempis Percussion Quartet is two members shy of being a full-fledged percussion outfit. While Cline's band uses a moniker that lacks complete truthfulness, saxophonist Dave Rempis doesn't lie. It's true that only two of the four members of his group wear the percussion tag, but those two men are at the heart of this music. Drummers Timothy Daisy and Frank Rosaly create the eight limbed, unwieldy beast that lives at the center of these pieces.
On this, their fifth album, these three men continue a journey through freely improvised music, but do so with a new bassist onboard. In order to shake things up and avoid falling into a rut, Rempis replaced the group's former bassist, Anton Hatwich, with Ingebrigt Haker Flaten. While longtime fans of the band might bemoan this personnel adjustment, plenty of sparks still fly. The album only presents two tracks, the 20-plus minute "This Is Not A Tango," and the somewhat bloated 42-plus minute "If You Were A Waffle And I Were A Bee," but different episodes allow for varied glimpses into the methods and madness surrounding these four men.
The first half of "This Is Not A Tango" has plenty of free blowing and loose shapes, but that all changes when a percussive trance sets in near the 12-minute mark. Rempis' interest in West African music seems to hold sway during much of the remainder of this piece, as he slyly moves above the stable rhythmic terrain below.
"If You Were A Waffle And I Were A Bee" is a wholly different and larger animal, deserving of a play by play. The drums are in swinging mode at the outset, as both percussionistsd and Flaten support Rempis' strong delivery. Rempis removes himself from the fray, allowing for one drummer to solo around the swinging foundation, but his return results in sonic shrapnel sprays that build to an extremely caustic conclusion. Next, jittery noises become the focal point, and uncertainty looms in every direction, as all four musicians make hesitant remarks. Rempis, with a little help from Flaten, eventually brings a sense of calm to the music, as he lulls the beast to sleep with his long lines. A heated discussion between bass and saxophone results in Flaten's departure, and Rempis delivers some skronking remarks after the door closes. Some quiet percussive rummaging ensues, before Rempis returns to heat things up and, eventually, everybody joins in with some lively work, before the fire burns out.
Those who still feel that freedom and structure are naturally at odds with one another could learn something from this group. With Montreal Parade, The Rempis Percussion Quartet shows great stamina and creativity while delivering on jazz critic Whitney Balliett's signature requirement: The sound of surprise.
Track Listing: This Is Not A Tango; If You Were A Waffle And I Were A Bee.
Personnel: Dave Rempis: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Ingebrigt Haker Flaten: bass; Tim Daisy: drums; Frank Rosaly: drums.