January 16, 2021
Toc & Dave Rempis
Closed for Safety Reasons
Circum-Disc CIDI 2002
The Bridge #14 (TBS11)
Chicago reedist Dave Rempis and Lille-based drummer Peter Orins can cunningly express themselves in a dizzying variety of forms. Rempis is a member of several trios and quartets, while the drummer not only plays with Kaze, but is part of many local ensembles.
Performing with musicians from both France and the US, Minuscules and Closed for Safety Reasons demonstrate the two musicians’ flexibility. A committed session of Free improvisation, Minuscules has Rempis playing alto and tenor saxophones along with fellow Yank Keefe Jackson on sopranino and tenor saxophones and bass clarinet along with a unique all-Gallic rhythm configuration of pianist Christine Wodrascka plus Didier Lasserre on drums as well as Orins. The other disc mixes freeform with fusion, as Rempis brings his horns to a session by the long-established French Toc trio, made up of Orins, guitarist Ivann Cruz and Jérémie Ternoy playing Fender Rhodes and piano bass. Local alto saxophonist Sakina Abdou joins the quartet on the CD’s final track.
Having worked with many of France’s most committed improvisers, Wodrascka, Lasserre and Orins easily create an undercurrent that is rumbling polyrhythmic and incisively bridging at the same time. The latter quality come from the pianist, whose ringing chording and unexpected dips into metrical elasticity and inner string plucking accelerate the dynamics as the reed players turn to high-pitched Energy Music-like squawks and trills. As the contrasts between the horns include multiphonic amplifications and dissected timbres as they move in broken octaves, the drummers’ response is both subtle and sophisticated. He uses nerve beats, shakes and punches to move the narratives; but he never eschewing tact for toughness.
A contrast between paradiddles and rim shots sets up the final “Gu Gu Gu” that otherwise features keyboard stabs and irregularly vibrations squeaks from the sopranino and tenor saxophones sliding from dog-whistle-like squeaks to renal snorts, Finally, the two horns settle on intermittent mewls and projected tongue sucks backed by abrasions from both piano wood and drum sides. Overall the kinetic climax occurs on “Ukh Ukh” which following an introduction of bass clarinet slurs and crimped piano notes, is logically stretched out to a biting melody that solidifies, despite further glossolalia decorations from both horns. Convincingly relaxed by the end with piano pumps and rim shots, the intensity is palpable until tremolo key clipping and cacophonous saxophone split tones are finally pieced together from sound shards into a tight narrative.
Intensity of another sort is paramount on Closed for Safety Reasons, which was recorded at the same studio in Lille about 18 months later. Here the players never seem to pull back as they roar through the CD’s four selections. With echoing guitar flanges, splooshing and hammering Rhodes vibratos, powerful drum strokes and a solid reed buzz, the quartet starts with authoritative textures as elevated sequences keep up the pressure throughout. Climaxes in the central tracks are attained with similar variations of assemblage and release, as the title track stretches the interaction to more than 19 minutes while “Snow Storm in Saillans” is only 8½. Ternoy’s piano-bass pacing is more obvious on “Snow Storm in Saillans”, alternating with whooshing electronic keyboard oscillations, A frenetic series of saxophone cries and ringing guitar tones allied with cymbal clanks reach a stop-time crescendo and finale.
“Closed for Safety Reasons” on the other hand negates its title as moderated vibrations and straight-ahead stretches crank up to a fortissimo and prestissimo program with concentrated distorted expressions from all. Given more space a sense of forbidding is built up from sequential solos of keyboard cascades, tick-tock drumming, downward guitar stroke and crow-like cackles propelled by Rempis’ hard reed. Doubling in intensity and speed, the piece reaches a crescendo of electronic splatters from Cruz and Ternoy plus staccato reed shards before Orins’ conclusive drum pops.
Truthfully the quartet has reached such an apex of unforced ingenious interaction that the addition of Abdou doesn’t alter the sound picture. Tones may be sharper, less sparse horn vamps may go in-and-out of focus with thematic variations, and Orins may work harder on the backbeat. But the dynamic parameters, exposition and ending aren’t that different.
Individually each CD can be enjoyed by its particular audience. They not only project forthright sounds, but also show off Rempis’ and Orins’ talents in dissimilar settings.
Track Listing: Minuscules: 1. Strozzii 2. Cristatus 3. Ukh Ukh 4. Gu Gu Gu
Personnel: Minuscules: Keefe Jackson (sopranino and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet); Dave Rempis (alto and tenor saxophones); Christine Wodrascka (piano); Didier Lasserre and Peter Orins (drums)
Track Listing: Closed: 1, No Sleep at La Zone 2. Snow Storm in Saillans 3. Closed for Safety Reasons 4. Temporary Lease*
Personnel: Closed: Dave Rempis (alto and tenor saxophones); Sakina Abdou* (alto saxophone and recorder); Jeremie Ternoy (Fender Rhodes, piano bass); Ivann Cruz (guitar) and Peter Orins (drums)