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Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Perihelion

Mark Corroto By

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These days, it's a luxury to have a working jazz band. It's funny to think in those terms, isn't it? Sure, that was a nice record, you think. But modern musicians, particularly jazz musician often play in multiple ensembles, in theatre productions, teach music lessons privately, and curate local music series. These things are often accomplished after their day jobs. So, yes, it is a luxury to have a working jazz band.

Saxophonist Dave Rempis has several working jazz bands and he also manages his own label, Aerophonic Records. Each release focuses on his working bands: The Rempis Percussion Quartet, Ballister, Gunwale, and duos with Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly, plus significant collaborations with the likes of Nate Wooley, Ken Vandermark, Chris Corsano, Joe Morris, Lasse Marhaug, Darren Johnston, and Larry Ochs.

This 2-CD set is by his working trio with drummer Avreeayl Ra and bassist Joshua Abrams. A band that formed in 2012 and had previously released Aphelion (2014). The first disc, recorded in 2015 contains a single 43-minute live trio track. The second has two pieces with the inclusion of the mysterious Chicago pianist Jim Baker. Okay, not mysterious, but woefully under-appreciated. Rempis and Baker go back to the days of the Rempis Quartet, Vandermark's Territory Bands, and he plays on the digital-only release Nettle (2016) with Rempis, Joe Morris, and Tomeka Reid. Plus, Baker maintains his own working trio with Joshua Abrams and Avreeayl Ra.

The trio's protracted piece "Enceladus," opens with bowed bass and Ra's cautious drumming before Rempis enters with a blues infusion of alto saxophone. The pace is almost ascetic. Even as the velocity accelerates, there is no sense of recklessness. Abrams' rock steady pulse is ever present here, like an energy blanket. He centers both Rempis' outward flights and Ra's whirling accents. The drummer draws on his years with Sun Ra to inject a world music (maybe otherworldly) beat, and groove is the motif throughout. Rempis switches to tenor for the last third of the piece following Abrams' meditative solo into the finale, which is by the drummer and bassist hoisting flute and clarinet. The piece is a true tour-de-force.

The addition of Baker ups the ante. His keyboards tilt the trio towards tumult on "Cassini Division." The ensuing disquiet is, to paraphrase poet Ted Joans, like screaming 'Cecil Taylor' in Saint Patrick's Cathedral on crowded Easter Sunday. He pushes Rempis, Abrams and Ra to dizzying heights, only to to be captured inside their unflappable vibrations.

The shortest piece here at 8:22, is "Pan And Daphnis." Baker opts for electronics, which moves the piece away from pulse, yet maintains that meditative experience.

Track Listing: CD1: Enceladus; CD2: Cassini Division, Pan And Daphnis.

Personnel: Dave Rempis: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Joshua Abrams: bass, clarinet; Avreeayl Ra: drums, wooden flute; Jim Baker: keyboards, electronics (CD2).

Title: Perihelion | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Aerophonic Records

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