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Point of Departure
Brian Morton
Here's a man who's perhaps just a bit too busy. Saxophonist Dave Rempis has worked with Ken Vandermark, the Chicago Improvisers Ensemble, the Territory Band, Crisis Ensemble, most of the names you'd associate with Euro-Chicago improv from Axel Dorner to Michael Zerang, as well as leading Triage with bassit Jason Ajemian and drummer Tim Daisy, who along with Frank Rosaly, account for the percussion in the present group.

Back in 2004, when Out of Season appeared, I was inclined to dismiss Rempis as one of those ready, willing and able types with sufficient chops to cut it in most any company, but without a distinctive enough vision to set him apart from the crowd. That earlier quartet was a basic horn/piano/bass/drums affair, with a spot of synth thrown in, mostly for camouflage, I thought.

Then 2006's Rip, Tear, Crunch appeared, again on 482, and blew any such thought away. The only working parallel I have for what Rempis is doing with this group, which isn't a percussion quartet at all, but an augmented pianoless trio, is one of the earlier versions of British altoist Trevor Watts' Moire Music, which emerged out of his earlier Amalgam trio with Barry Guy or Jeff Clyne and John Stevens. If Rempis' horn line on the opening "A Night at the Ranch" is almost abecedarian in its straightforwardness, that's because much of the action really is devolved to the two percussionists. So it isn't quite the misnomer it seems.

The opening of "The Bus and the Canyon", half an hour of steadily evolving improvisation, is reminiscent of two aged saurians trudging slowly over a dry soda lake. Rempis has switched to baritone, to deliver what's almost a cello line, while bassist Anton Hatwich, the easily overlooked component of this group, thuds away with deceptive casualness.

Disc two sees one of the drummers trying to quiet the crowd at the Hunter-Gatherer, a South Carolina venue, with some peremptory mottos and rolls. Eventually, Rempis, back on alto, plunges in, delivering short Ornette-inspired phrases over the kind of stop-start meter Charles Moffett used to do as a specialty. To be honest, it tails off after "More Green Than Giraffe". The last three tracks suggest a touch of idea-fatigue, if, indeed, they're sequenced here in the order played. "A Night at the Ranch: part two" doesn't revisit the opening material more than incidentally, but it evokes a similar mood. So, perhaps too much of a good thing. This would have made a very decent single CD, one of those occasions where value for money isn't matched with consistent quality throughout. That said, Rempis has my vote for the immediate future, or rather his group does. There's a language these guys are feeling their way towards, and it's going to be hugely exciting when they get there.

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