Out of Season
Document Chicago #5 Recorded October 6, 2003 live at 3030 in Chicago. After nearly four years of developing their voice as an improvising collective, Rempis (Triage, Vandermark Five, Thread Quintet, Territory Band) and his quartet make their recorded debut with this live set. Following two years of regular work as a drummerless trio that explored quieter dynamics and the harmonic possibilties of their instruments, the group added drummer Tim Daisy and pianist Jim Baker's synthesizer to the mix in 2002 to create a louder, more sound-oriented approach to creating longform free improvisations. * NU Jazz Fest Creates Pervasive Thunder Chicago Tribune Howard Recih It doesn't get the publicity or prominence of it's downtown counterparts, but the one-night jazz festival that erupted Thursday evening on the campus of Northwestern University, in Evanston, proved revelatory. For here -- during the course of a single, marathon performance -- some of the best jazz improvisers on the planet (most based in Chicago) unleashed oft-thunderous, intellectually vigorous musical statements. Though all the artists who converged at Northwestern's McCormick Auditorium for the third annual Chicago Sounds Jazz Fest have dedicated their lives to transcending conventional approaches to jazz improvisation, each addressed this challenge in unabashedly idiosyncratic ways. The result was a stunning array of musical perspectives, each persuasive for distinct reasons. Some of the most dynamic musicmaking came from the saxophones of Dave Rempis, a young veteran of Chicago's experimental music scene who has been establishing a vividly recognizable voice of his own. Whether playing alto or tenor saxophone, Rempis made the room shake with the sheer power and ferocity of his work. But there was much more than just volume and rhythmic drive to this performance. Throughout, Rempis altered the tenor and tone of his solos, shifting from a roar to a whisper, from rhythmic energy to near stasis precisely when listeners least expected it. Moreover, Rempis' solos proved both intricately conceived and structurally lucid, even his most complex cadenzas designed to advance the progress of a vast improvisation. Though listeners with conservative tastes might have been puzzled by the squeaks, rasps and moans that Rempis drew from his horns, anyone who has been listening to creative improvisation for the past 40 years or so recognized the musical vernacular on which Rempis drew. He was aided tremendously by the irreplaceably manic keyboardist Jim Baker, who produced gloriously unpredictable bursts of dissonance, color and noise on piano and synthesizer. To hear Baker's strangely oscillating pitches and weirdly fascinating tone clusters softly accompanying Rempis' most gently lyric passages was to behold a kind of poetry of the avant-garde underground. Bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Tim Daisy provided nimble, empathetic support from start to finish. The evening's finale, a historic meeting of Chicago reed virtuoso Ken Vandermark and Boston guitar innovator Joe Morris, ennobled and enhanced the work of each artist. For Morris' characteristically soft-spoken approach encouraged the sonically formidable Vandermark to lean toward restraint and understatement, while Vandermark's irrepressible extroversion forced Morris to project in bolder ways than usual. Two innovative artists with very different methods, in other words, found common ground, their duets as spontaneous and alive as one might hope to hear from any two players of their caliber. During some passages, in fact, one wondered how Vandermark's spiky, pointillist ideas on clarinet could be answered in kind -- on the spot -- by Morris' fleetly staccato playing on guitar. The speed, delicacy, precision and sensitivity of their duo passages represented a high point of the genre. Earlier in the evening, the magnificent Fred Anderson (for years a father figure for Chicago's free-jazz improvisers) unfurled the magisterial lines that have made him one of the most admired tenor saxophonists in post-bebop jazz. The sheer expressive breadth, tonal depth and harmonic freedom of Anderson's playing represented an object lesson in sustaining melodic interest without benefit of a recognizable tune or standard chord progressions. William Perry's Explosion Ensemble opened the evening with sublimely reserved, blues-based improvisations, the warmth of Perry's work on alto and tenor saxophones serving as the perfect curtain-raiser for the storms yet to come.