Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker: Perihelion

Dave Rempis made his mark as the second saxophonist in the Vandermark 5, and his former employer’s influence is abundant throughout Perihelion, a two-disc set released on Rempis’ label, Aerophonic. The music undulates like waves on the high seas, lulls giving way to stormy interludes, free improv giving way to beats and melodies. Freedom rules, but Rempis’ fierce, atonal blowing is often underpinned by deliberate patterns and grooves formed by bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Avreeayl Ra.

Disc one is a single 43-minute performance, “Enceladus.” It begins with a free arco bass solo that leads to a single long note blown by Rempis, on alto, while Ra taps with mallets. As the three find their footing, gentleness gradually turns to ferocity, and after a few minutes Rempis is shrieking, Ra is bashing and Abrams is thumping with abandon. Suddenly the hurricane ends, and Abrams and Ra engage in a brief meditation. Later, the trio emerges with a groove that recalls the heyday of the V5. By the time the piece concludes, Ra has switched to wood flute, quietly fluttering behind Rempis’ circular, repeating tenor saxophone phrase.

The second disc is two pieces, the 32-minute “Cassini Division” and the eight-minute “Pan and Daphnis.” The trio is joined by Jim Baker, who adds keyboards and electronics. This time Rempis kicks off with a tenor solo; before long he’s squealing while Abrams and Ra egg him on with aggression. Baker, on the other hand, is more introspective on the piano, almost detached from his cohorts, with spare, sustained chords and minimalist runs. He has a mitigating effect on the group, never quite getting caught up in the chaos. The final and shortest tune is another departure, with Baker inserting electronics instead of piano into the free improv. “Tour de force” is an overused phrase in music criticism, but it applies perfectly to Perihelion.