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Dave Rempis: Stringers & Struts

John Sharpe By

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Dave Rempis: Stringers & Struts
Chicago-based reedman Dave Rempis has hit such a peak of consistency that the number of stars awarded to any particular outing is more down to personal preference than any variation in quality. He's in control of his own destiny as most of his output flows from his own Aerophonic imprint. And he's achieved another high point with Stringers And Struts, the result of a one-off gathering of Windy City improvisers in town for the 2019 Chicago Jazz Fest, which makes light of its lack of track record. Each of the four members leads their own units, each occupying slightly different niches within the jazz spectrum.

Although drummer Jeremy Cunningham orbits closer to the mainstream than the other participants, appearing on albums by Marquis Hill and Nick Mazzarella, his substantial freeform credentials also include a duo with Rempis. Both are colleagues of guitarist Jeff Parker, a veteran of outfits such as post-rock band Tortoise and the Chicago Underground Trio. To complete the circle, Parker and Rempis also toured with Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten's Quintet back when he resided in the City early in the millennium. All that is to say that the ties go deep in spite of the dearth of recorded evidence.

Thanks to such wide ranging provenance, the group's uncharted explorations incline towards familiar structural elements such as bouts of regular time keeping, melodic passages, rocky beats and propulsive figures, making this one of Rempis' most accessible dates. Each of the three cuts unfolds spontaneously, but with such natural progression that it's as if they are privy to a script. All begin with a back and forth between Rempis and Parker, relaxed, responsive and sweet in "Cutwater," but spare and spiky in "Caviste."

On the former, the foursome takes flight as bass and drums ease into the fray, begetting a bustling chugging rhythm over which Rempis unspools a high voltage alto tracery, courtesy of a boundless imagination allied to effortless facility, until passing on the baton for a scratchy staccato duet between Parker and Håker Flaten. So far, so experimental. But it's here that Parker reveals his lyrical bent, soaring songlike during a drifting interlude which sets the tone for the remainder of the cut.

Parker and Rempis again strut their stuff during the 25-minute "Harmany." Håker Flaten's history with The Thing means he's no stranger to out-there saxophone mayhem, but he also contributes a buoyant counterpoint to Rempis' boppish tenor once Cunningham shifts the fractious introduction into a Latin-inflected groove. After some comping chimes, Parker gets right into the mood with a sunny break, inserting some Brazilian-sounding licks into his honeyed lines, as if he's harmonizing an unstated tune in his head.

Such freewheeling interaction helps create a cohesive feel which suggests that a future existence might beckon for the quartet. If new to Rempis' escapades, this might be the place to start before following him to the outer extremes.

Track Listing

Cutwater; Harmany; Caviste.

Personnel

Dave Rempis: saxophone; Jeff Parker: guitar; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: bass; Jeremy Cunningham: drums.

Album information

Title: Stringers & Struts | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Aerophonic Records

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