Saxophone and drum duets: Cyrillic; Through The Fire; Bad Luck

John Sharpe By

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Dave Rempis/Frank Rosaly
482 Music

Famoudou Don Moye/Eliel Sherman Storey
Through The Fire
AECO Records

Chris Icasiano/Neil Welch
Bad Luck
Belle Records

There's something primal about the combination of saxophone and drums, harking back to the earliest sounds of vocal chants and beaten rhythms, which promotes immediacy of response. But reduced to two participants there is also a propensity for interaction which gets right to the heart of matters. These three discs bear testament to that potential for direct communication.

Cyrillic documents yet more of the fertile Chicago scene. Drummer Frank Rosaly and saxophonist Dave Rempis possess an understanding forged in the reedman's Rempis Percussion Quartet, which finds full expression over seven jointly extemporized pieces. Rempis is a fluent improviser able to conjure solo statements which take wing with their own internal logic while Rosaly proves a dream partner, adept at timbral coloration but also at propulsive momentum without being necessarily on the beat or even anywhere near it. "Antiphony" makes a forceful opener, casually funky and conversational with Rempis' cries and yowls fuelled by the drummer's sizzling hi-hat shimmer. On "How to Cross When Bridges are Out" Rosaly generates a roiling stasis that inspires the saxophonist's most intense workout, his perky alto spinning off into swooping falsetto ululations. Well-paced, the ruminative impressionism of "Still Will" is followed on "Don't Trade Here" by a sparse dialogue of multiphonics and squealing scrapes like an overheard conversation between two taciturn old friends before the buoyant closer "In Plain Sight," which, in its driving power, evokes Rempis' tenure in the Vandermark 5.

Also from Chicago, but a generation earlier, is Through The Fire by Art Ensemble of Chicago stickman Famoudou Famoudou Don Moye and relative newcomer saxophonist Eliel Sherman Storey. Together they tackle four compositions from the pen of Storey and one classic slab of Great Black Music by Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre over the course of 44 minutes. Their structures are conventional, nothing too surprising here, just good music very well done. Storey has a warm expansive tone on both tenor and soprano, which he uses to etch elegantly lyrical lines over Moye's considered polyrhythms. Both take their time, listening closely and making each phrase count. It's six minutes into "March To The Eastern Sunrise" before the drummer joins Storey's soprano soliloquy, spiked with a recurring melodic tag that snags in the mind, for a simple but powerful slow burner. There's a similar spiritual quality to Kalaparusha's "Humility In The Light Of The Creator," bookended with ritual gongs, bells and chimes around incantatory tenor over the native American cadences of Council drums for an impassioned finale to a superb set.

Saxophonist Neil Welch adds electronic effects to the arsenal shared with drummer Chris Icasiano on Bad Luck. In tandem the Seattle-based pair range from post-Ayler skronk to rocky grooves by way of ambient textural loops, sometimes all within the same piece, on a 67-minute session spread across 9 cuts. Though they share writing duties they've developed a strong group conception, defined by sudden switches in tempo, intensity and mood, making description arduous. Instrumentation is almost incidental to their episodic constructions. However, while Welch agitates against dense effects-built saxophone layers on "Christ Lake," the highlights tend to be where the electronics are used sparingly like Welch's quick-change pair "Input/Output" and "Cash and Tongue" and particularly "Pollock" where the reedman's accomplished airy soprano holds court against crisp work from Icasiano and shows great promise for the future.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Antiphony; Tainos; Thief of Sleep; How to Cross When Bridges are Out; Still Will; Don't Trade Here; In Plain Sight.

Personnel: Dave Rempis: alto, tenor, baritone saxophones; Frank Rosaly: drums.

Through The Fire

Tracks: Spirit Catchers; To Life Suite—a) To Life, b) Transition, c) The Unknown Journey, d) To Everlasting Life; March To The Eastern Sunrise; Simple Solution; Humility In The Light Of The Creator.

Personnel: Famoudou Don Moye: drums, Council drums, bells, gongs and chimes; Eliel Sherman Storey: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, bells and gongs.

Bad Luck

Tracks: Christ Lake; Input/Output; Strange and Beautiful; Pollock; Bad Luck; Cash and Tongue; Nocturnal House; New Metal; Shadows.

Personnel: Chris Icasiano: drums; Neil Welch: tenor, soprano and contrabass saxophones, live loops and pedals.


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