The Rempis Percussion Quartet : Hunter-Gatherers

There are two ways of looking at this recording. On the one hand, it’s great to hear Dave Rempis develop as a saxophonist. At first he appeared to be a promising player, although after his work with the Vandermark Five, that promise dissipated somewhat. As an improviser with that band, he seemed to adopt much of leader Ken Vandermark’s rhythmic gawkiness and predilection for the big, obvious gesture at the expense of subtlety and attention to detail.

On this two-disc set of free improvisations with bassist Anton Hatwich and percussionists Frank Rosaly and Tim Daisy, Rempis demonstrates that he is indeed interested in a measure of refinement, which he accomplishes without compromising energy, expression or intensity. His sense of time, from which forward momentum so often springs, is spot on, and his approach to phrasing is nicely varied and more flexible than one would’ve once thought him capable. The band supports him well enough, although there’s more than the usual aimlessness that so often characterizes the performance of freely improvised music. All are ill served by the stereo-mic-in-front-of-the-bandstand recording technique. Which brings up the other side of the equation. As a creative artifact, this is a minor document that does not necessarily merit release.

The musicians play well, especially Rempis. It’s certainly understandable why he would care to flaunt his playing here. However, recorded on the cheap in front of an apparently disinterested audience (if the ever-present loud conversation in the background is any indication), the end product is fatally compromised. We listen to lo-fi recordings by Ayler or Coltrane because they’re of historical import. This music is not. If Rempis was so determined that this be heard, he should’ve bypassed the manufacture of CDs and made it available for free download from his Web site.