Imagine if the listener could choose bands or combinations of musicians like a fantasy football game. They would compile discographies and note when certain players crossed paths, or imagine new combinations of dissimilar styles. This is obviously not an original idea because Chicago saxophonist Dave Rempis
has been drafting varying combinations of talented players for more than a decade. The majority of his fantasy leagues can be heard at Elastic Arts where he curates a weekly series, at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival where he manages operations, or on his artist-run label, Aerophonic Records.
This fantasy project is a quartet of Chicago, ex-Chicago, and Chicago-related musicians. Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
, now a resident of Texas, has the longest association with the saxophonist, performing in The Rempis Percussion Quartet (with ten releases) and the side projects Tripel/Dubbel, Heaven Orchestra, and The Outskirts. Rempis and guitarist Jeff Parker
were also members of Flaten's Quintet and Chicago Septet. The wildcard here is drummer Jeremy Cunningham
, who Rempis had performed with in a duo, and who had drafted Parker to perform on his most excellent release The Weather Up There
(Northern Spy, 2020).
The three improvised pieces captured here include two 20+ minute excursions, and the brief "Caviste," (at 7½ minutes) which grabs hold of listeners' ears with Flaten's heavy pulse, the metallic strikes of Cunningham, and the flowing blues of Rempis' baritone saxophone, all accompanied by Parker's well-placed guitar notes. The succinct nature of this improvisation contrasts with the two lengthier pieces, both of which proceed in a patient and imperturbable manner to coalesce into differing shapes, meaning differing avenues of sound are explored. Parker chops and bends notes, utilizing effects, as does Flaten with Rempis employing his now familiar saxophone flights with overblown passages of hurly-burly. The crowning piece here might be "Harmany," a piece which harkens back to Rempis' work in the Vandermark 5. The sound is smuggled in with twinges and flashes as the quartet explores various avenues, finally settling on a groove-luscious attack driven by Cunningham. One has to love it when a fantasy plan comes together.
Cutwater; Harmany; Caviste.