Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker - Apsis (Aerophonic, 2019)

This is a fascinating group, at once deeply experimental and also anchored in the here and now. Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, Jim Baker on piano and synthesizer, Joshua Abrams on bass and Avreeayl Ra on drums and percussion combine free jazz and electro-acoustic improvisation on a far reaching and very successful album. On the opening track “Exedra” there is baritone saxophone playing brawny and detailed amid a lush and intricate ecology of piano, bass and drums, building quickly and dramatically, creating deeply integrated and powerful full band music that soars. Open spaces develop over the course of the lengthy improvisation for flowing streams of piano and bass framed by ever present percussion as Remps briefly steps aside. He returns on another saxophone, deftly moving with a lighter and nimbler tone, and the music becomes open ended and searching. He is playing alto saxophone in a unique and forceful manner creating a dark and piercing tone, casting out long ribbons of curling sound and stepping back to allow them to fade. The rest of the band is equally potent, with the bass and drums creating ever shifting patterns of rhythm and Baker adding just the right notes and swelling chords. There is a quietly meditative bass solo that re-grounds the group in the here and now, they regroup in a dignified manner, growing faster and faster, like a whirling dervish with taut bass and scouring saxophone leading the group on an exploratory charge and performing in a relentlessly thrilling manner. Rempis plays fast twists and turns on his instrument like a veteran bop musician, leading to a final lush and bright conclusion. On the second track “Mithrab” Baker moves to the synthesizer, and using it and the deep saxophone to move huge swathes of sound, adding waves of bowed bass and percussion to create a unique and compelling sound. Their free improvisation is unusual but works very well, delving into the unknown without reservation, incorporating different aspects of experimental music from jazz and beyond. Baker’s use of the ARP synth recalls Sun Ra, but a thoroughly post-modern version, as the tones drone and cry, quaver and oscillate, provide feedback and fodder for the other members of the band. Drifting into a quiet almost ballad like section, brushes and gentle saxophone meet a weird synthesized tone, offset by acoustic bass, allowing the band to really stretch out and explore. The group is as effective playing quietly as they are when playing loudly as their music reveals deeper levels of hues and colors in skittish sections for bowed bass, electronics and saxophone, as does the use of repetition and release allowing the musicians a very wide foundation to construct their improvisation. Apsis - Aerophonic Records Bandcamp

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