April 2006


Our review of remnants

The Rempis Percussion Quartet
Rip Tear Crunch

The Rempis Percussion Quartet | opening set: Aldcroft/Shaw/Sorbara
April 7, 2006Arraymusic StudiosToronto
You and the Night and the Music
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
The music of the Arraymusic Studios Leftover Daylight Series is as far from the old Howard Dietz & Arthur Schwartz tune “You and the Night and the Music” as you can get — yet, that is what it’s all about. The music is prime, indivisible. But 'you' member of the group, 'you' member of the audience and the night are all ingredients of the music, to some extent. All affects all and improvisation rules.

This night, we were to hear a first set from Toronto musicians Aldcroft/Shaw/Sorbara followed by the headlining Rempis Percussion Quartet from Chicago. It was wet outside and the window was open. Inside, the warehouse room was dry and cozy.

Guitarist Ken Aldcroft, saxophonist Evan Shaw and drummer Joe Sorbara started the evening with the tune “Right Left”, a Sorbara composition from their upcoming trio CD Remnants. It was a piece with lots of open space, repetitive motifs and freely improvised sax and guitar all supported and accented with percussion.

For the second improvisation, Nicole Margaret Mitchell, another musician visiting from Chicago, joined the trio. An especially interesting section developed out of Sorbara’s drawing a bow through the hardware of his floor tom, creating a non-electronic feedback whine in the process. Accelerating the speed of his movements and altering the manner in which he pushed and pulled the bow, he produced a rapid chattering sound, as of rodents or teeth, and he started to rattle pots, batting them about on the surface of the snare and the tom. As this was happening, Nicole stopped playing the flute and started adding high-pitched vocalizations. Evan Shaw fingered scampering sounds on the keypads of his sax and an insistent guitar ran underneath with sudden changes of string tension.

Joe Sorbara
Joe Sorbara demonstrated the fact that anything, in the right context, can be a percussion instrument as he blew up a balloon, then pushed and pulled at it, making rubbery, squeaky sounds. He let air out of it and pinched it tight and finally let it fly off on its own deflating power, bringing forth chuckles from the audience. He laid a drumstick with a rubber tip on a drum and hit it with his fingers to make it vibrate just as children will play with a door stop spring. Inventive.

With the Rempis Percussion Quartet in the second set we experienced the full Chicago invasion. The Rempis Percussion Quartet is currently on a grueling 19-day, 16-concert driving tour stopping in 15 American and Canadian cities. They opened and will close the tour with concerts in Chicago, a city with one of the strongest improvised music scenes anywhere.

The Rempis Percussion Quartet has a definite Chicago identity with driven sax, imaginative percussion and strong surges of passion and rhythm. Dave Rempis started off playing a rhythmic two-note pattern, added a third note and more rhythm, vigorously building a piece. The two drummer-percussionists, Tim Daisy to the left and Frank Rosaly to the right framed the full tones of sax and bass with cowbell on tom, circling sticks on cymbals and bouts of beats. When Rempis stopped playing the percussionists carried on with all manner of sounds while Anton Hatwich held the centre with long-resonating, well-spaced, single bass notes. When Rempis re-joined the music making, the intensity grew to Xtreme, climaxing with crashing cymbals. That was the opening.

The late arrival from Montreal (just 15 minutes before “show time”), the result of snow squalls, rain and traffic congestion on the 401, had no discernible negative effect on the group’s playing. Maybe that had something to do with the relief and welcome offered by the warmth of the space and the unexpected presence of fellow Chicagoan, Nicole Margaret Mitchell. In any case, the dynamics and communication between the four of them was free-flowing and easy. The energy level was high and intense but not angrily aggressive.

Dave Rempis

There were passages of bowed bass, sometimes soft and melancholy with suggestions of the blues, baritone blown lower and lower with abrupt rhythmic cut-offs and doubled tones and absorbing interplay between the two instruments. There were moments of modern chamber music and emergences of ever-advancing Afro rhythms. There were eruptions of triplety jazz drumming and strutting sax moments between sinuous and insolent sax lines. With electric beater attachment on mini hi-hat, Frank Rosaly proved once again that anything is a percussion instrument, used in the right way at the right time.

Was it like their new CD? Yes and no. After all, we are dealing with improvisers here. Both CD and performance show a degree of musicianship that would seem beyond the years of these young guys. The strong and rhythmic saxophone playing sometimes reminiscent of Coltrane, the presence of a bass (with a melodious sound) and the emergence of strong grooves makes the music on Rempis Percussion Quartet’s Rip Tear Crunch more accessible than some recorded improvised music. If this is at all your bag, you should love it. Still best of all though, is to hear them play live.
Anton Hatwich
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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