Chicago-based saxophonist Dave Rempis (Rempis Percussion Quartet, Vandermark 5, Ballister, and many more) has recently launched his own label, Aerophonic Records. The third and fourth releases, Aphelion by Rempis/Abrams/Ra (pictured above) and Second Spring by the Rempis/Daisy Duo (pictured below), will be in stores on January 21 and can be ordered now from the label. Interestingly, they won’t be available from Amazon or on iTunes.
Aphelion features three tracks—one short, two long—from three different performances, recorded between April and September 2013 by the trio of Rempis, switching between alto and baritone saxophone; Joshua Abrams playing bass, guimbri and small harp; and percussionist Avreeayl Ra. The music has elements of jazz and “world music,” blending sounds that could be from Asia, North Africa, or some polyglot Chicago neighborhood bar. It’s meditative at times, throbbing and visceral at others. It begins with the under four-minute “Ruah,” an atmospheric piece featuring what sounds like kalimba, the aforementioned small harp (which, judging by this, must be hand-held), and soft, low blowing from Rempis. It’s sort of Konono No. 1-meets-music box, gentle and beautiful. The longest track, the 26-minute “Noriya,” seems to travel through a series of movements, with Rempis picking up the horn, blowing long, almost Peter Brötzmann-esque solos, then resting as the rhythm section goes to work for a while, then coming back. It’s incantatory, with Abrams plucking the bass at times and bowing it at others, and Ra driving what sounds like a minimal kit with ferocity and imagination. Aphelion‘s 21-minute final track, “Saqiya,” features hand drumming, guimbri, and exploratory but never raucous saxophone. It recalls Pharoah Sanders‘ Bill Laswell-produced album with Maleem Mahmoud Ghania, The Trance of Seven Colors. This is a fascinating, multifaceted record that’ll hit you with one unexpected moment after another, all of them enjoyable.
Second Spring is a duo between Rempis (here playing alto, tenor, and baritone saxes) and drummer Tim Daisy, with whom he’s worked for nearly two decades in the Vandermark 5, the Rempis Percussion Quartet, and many other groups. This is their second duo encounter, following 2005′s Back to the Circle on Okka Disk. It’s got a lot of groove and muscle to it, at times recalling Fred Anderson‘s almost symbiotic teaming with Hamid Drake. Given the minimal instrumentation, the two men are forced to be imaginative to keep things compelling for an hour, and they definitely do that. For example, while the opening track, “Impasto,” is blustery and hard-driving, the piece that follows, “Numbers Lost,” plays with space and quiet the way the first used volume and impact. Sometimes Second Spring swings, sometimes it simmers, and sometimes it rocks. It may be (slightly) less eclectic than Aphelion, but it’s no less powerful, and just as much fun to listen to. I don’t recommend choosing between them.
After the jump, an interview with Dave Rempis about these two albums, living and working in Chicago, starting and running an independent label, and more.