Recorded live on tour at the Hunter-Gatherer club in Columbia, South Carolina, this double CD is the third release from saxophonist Dave Rempis' The Rempis Percussion Quartet, and a logical progression for what has been called one of the best live bands in Chicago.
Rempis' most high profile gig is providing the improvisational firepower to the frontline of the Vandermark 5, but his saxophones are increasingly featured in a range of bands on the fertile Chicago scene. The Percussion Quartet reunites him with Vandermark 5 drummer, Tim Daisy, Frank Rosaly, also behind the trapset, and Anton Hatwich on bassall regular collaborators in each others projects.
The sleeve notes state that all the music is fully improviseda necessary disclosure as a cursory listen could easily impute compositional intent to several of the lengthy extemporizations. Such group cohesion is evident in the often steady pulse, either upfront or implied, from the tandem percussionists.
Rempis' fluent outpourings frequently turn lyrical, which when allied with his use of repetition to provide structure, often suggests the preconceived. While at his most freewheeling on alto saxophone, Rempis covers all the bases, getting down and dirty on baritone, preaching on tenor, but still skronking and squealing as the moment demands. Hatwich's bass alternates between roles as a free agentproviding commentaryand the anchoring to freer flights of fancy. When drums, bass and saxophone lock onto a riff, they don't let go, constituting a unit of fearsome power. The two drummers largely operate in close proximity, playing around and through each others patterns, and while there are moments of delicacy and calm, it is the rhythmic attack which sticks in memory.
The band stretches out in the live setting with three of the cuts clocking in at between eighteen and twenty seven minutes, and it is to their credit that they sustain the interest over the longer pieces, which evolve through multiple sections. The compelling opener "A Night At The Ranch Part 1 sets out the bands stall, pitching driving alto against bustling polyrhythms. By contrast, "The Bus and the Canyon starts out soulful before a bass solo leads into a dark riff. Each piece encompasses several moods, defying simple characterization. Of the shorter pieces, "Black Book quickly gets into a stomping groove and stays there, while the closing "Larks and Loons is a playful alto jaunt over restrained, but nonetheless buoyant percussion and bass.
While the sound is a perfectly acceptable for a live recording, I wish there was some stereo separation between the two percussionists. Jazz is all about interaction, and when it you can't tell who plays what or when, then there is a dimension missing. That gripe aside this is an exciting set and a fascinating take on the art of long form free jazz improvisation.
CD1: A Night At The Ranch; CD2: More Green Than Giraffe; Black Book; A Night At The Ranch Part Two; Larks And Loons.
Dave Rempis: alto, tenor and baritone saxes; Anton Hatwitch: bass; Frank Rosaly: percussion; Tim Daisy: percussion.