Friday, August 19, 2016

Rempis/Johnston/Ochs - Neutral Nation (Aerophonic Records, 2016)

This is a very interesting recording of the ongoing collaborative horn trio of Dave Rempis on alto and baritone saxophones, Darren Johnston on trumpet and Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones. The music was recorded live in Buffalo, NY during their May 2015 North American tour. This album is very dynamic and textural, moving from a whisper to a scream but also using the breadth and width of their individual instruments to create a very unique sound environment. Calling their approach to music spontaneous composition rather than free jazz, they move into areas that are significantly more extensive while still employing the same core focus. There are two very long performances, "Pierce Arrow" that is nearly one-half hour in length, and "Seven Little Buffalos" that is just over twenty minutes long. These long running times allow the musicians to explore the sounds they are creating at length, with persistence, interacting with each other and the space that surrounds them. Moving from subtle slurs to raw squeals, the music remains unpredictable throughout the album. The instruments are all on a level playing field, working together for a greater good. There are some passages for individuals, and they carry them off very well showing many ideas, but group interaction is the focus with the trio coming together again and again with raw and circling improvisation. Dynamics move from hard to soft and from fast to slow, keeping the music unpredictable as the waves of sound build structurally as strong hard blowing encourages the whole band coalesce. Fresh powerful saxophones cry out emotionally, culminating in massive full throttle playing followed by a drop off to circular wails of saxophone and trumpet. The trio moves with fortitude, and exploits the available space, waiting for the right moment to shift the dynamic field of the music, with group interaction at the forefront. As the musical process develops, the trio uses a seemingly endless variety of musical approaches, in which quiet and soft passages dissolve into whispers, which then shift into snarls and screams of sound that build up to a very powerful and provocative sensibility. On other occasions, all three members of the trio show the ability to swoop and swirl like birds or insects, coming together, and then dropping off individually like planes in formation suddenly splitting apart. Meanwhile the rough and tumble emotional sounds of the saxophonists often gruff but tender sounds mix with the trumpeter’s method of approaching improvisation, creating a large musical map to explore. Neutral Nation - aerophonic records.

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