Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker - Scylla (Aerophonic, Records, 2022)

This is the fourth album from this exciting group, 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. They are always exciting to hear from because the music is in a constant state of evolution, and this live album from Chicago in July of 2021 also welcomed musicians and fans out of isolation and as Ra would say "“This is for all the survivors.” "Opening," Ra's spoken solo piece on mbira was actually delivered as a benediction at the end of the concert, but Rempis was so impressed that he moved it to the opening track on this album. It sets the tone perfectly, leading to the massive thirty five minute exploration "Between a Rock" which uses deeply reverent saxophone, drums and piano, while the bass weaves between the instruments. Flurries of saxophone increase in speed, adding overblown accents, then shift to deep and yearn sounds, grounded by bass, brushed drums and piano. The music regains stature with muscular drumming and piano playing supporting withering runs on the saxophone, creating a very exciting full band sound. Rempis steps aside, setting up a fast paced and taut area for the rhythm section to shine, and they develop fine interplay between the instruments. The group then turns to delicate bowed bass and saxophone with piano accents, bright peals of saxophone with comping piano, beginning to become something deeper and more intricate. Rempis adds lengthy fraught tones, dynamically downshifting to spare tones drifting in the breeze. Space is available for statements from the drums, then piano, sounding ripe and lively leading the full band into a torrential section of free improvisation, including a beautiful bowed bass feature. They wrap up this massive piece of music with a lean mid tempo improvisation with the saxophone sounding particularly potent and in charge. The third track, "Viscosity," is another ambitious performance, with a raw scouring sound from Rempis's saxophone with bowed bass grinding against Baker's synthesizer, creating a fascinating section, a wild soundscape. The saxophone high pitched sounds over synthesizer and bass, alien sounds, which allow the group to play with time pulling the music as if it is an elastic thing. The music relaxes and becomes a little more easy going with a lengthy saxophone led section that has Baker’s synthesizer as the main supporting instrument. A Portion of time for plucked bass and flute is unexpected but welcome, as the saxophone flitters around, and other instruments rumble and clank. Things crank crack up with a heavy pure improv with squalls of saxophone, sighting land and shifting to some more excellent bowed bass playing, which leads to swinging group interplay with a quavering synthesizer bringing the music to its conclusion. The group is very effective as a dynamically changing unit, and close listening to the music reveals deeper levels of hues and colors which allow the musicians a very wide foundation to construct their improvisation with no barriers to their success. Scylla - Bandcamp

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