The Squid's Ear Magazine


Rempis, Dave / Avreeayl Ra: Bennu [VINYL] (Aerophonic)

The first recorded document of longtime collaborators performing as a duo, Dave Rempis (alto & tenor saxophones) and Avreeayl Ra (drums & percussion), in a thoughtfully building and muscular sax/drum pairing of both meditative and joyful free playing, captured at Constellation in Chicago after months where both players were unable to perform in person; exceptional!
 

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product information:

Personnel:



Dave Rempis-alto saxophone, tenor saxophone

Avreeayl Ra-drums, percussion, vocals


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UPC: 0682203921

Label: Aerophonic
Catalog ID: AR033
Squidco Product Code: 31334

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Recorded at Constellation in Chicago, Illinois, on February 17th, 2021, by Nolan Chin.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The winter of 2020 into 2021 was perhaps the darkest time for working musicians that most of them may ever know. Earlier in 2020, when the COVID pandemic first hit, many of them found ways to stay active with online streams, and outdoor performances in the warmer months. But by December 2020, that activity ended as the largest wave of the pandemic crashed upon the world, and most performance opportunities came to a halt. It was one of the most chaotic periods in recent world history, particularly in the US, where the presidential election had just taken place, and where Black Lives Matters protestors were finally waking America up to the flagrant killings of innocent Black people by the police that have plagued this country for so long. Amongst all that, most musicians were left without a crucial means to process, reflect upon, and express their feelings and thoughts in the way they've dedicated their lives to doing. So at this recording session in February 2021, saxophonist Dave Rempis and master drummer Avreeayl Ra both had a lot to say.

Rempis and Ra have worked together for about fifteen years. Most regularly since 2012 in their trio with Joshua Abrams, which expanded into a quartet in 2016 with the addition of pianist Jim Baker. That band is a real working unit, having performed dozens of gigs in Chicago and abroad, and releasing three critically-acclaimed records, also on Aerophonic: Aphelion (2014), Perihelion (2016), and Apsis (2019). The diligent work these two improvisers have put in together in that context has slowly caramelized their rapport like a carbonnade. And on Bennu, we get the unique opportunity to hear the pair's very first duo outing, a long overdue head-to-head matchup.

When this album was recorded, both Rempis and Ra had been locked down for the entire winter, neither one having played with another musician for several months. For Ra, at 74, and Rempis, at 46, this was the longest break either of them had from performing with others since they first started playing music decades ago. Done in one take for an online stream at Constellation in Chicago, this duo session was a rebirth in the midst of those darkest days. And as Ra said on camera during the performance, "this challenge that we're having is just gonna make the music that much stronger - it really gives a profound, poignant story to tell now, if you didn't have one before." On Bennu, we find them digging deep into the existential depths of that tumult and loneliness, while also celebrating the joy of reemergence, and union.

The Bennu Bird was an ancient Egyptian deity/symbol that was likely the predecessor to the Phoenix of ancient Greece. It was depicted in the New Kingdom era as an almost comically tall bluish-gray bird - possibly based on the giant 6-ft heron that was found to have lived on the coast of the Red Sea in that time. Amongst other things, the Bennu Bird was said to have created itself out of the darkness at the dawn of time. Subsequently, the sound of its call as it landed on a rock while flying over the primeval waters of chaos known as Nun initiated the creation of the world itself. Out of nothing, something."-Aerophonic Records


Artist Biographies

"Dave Rempis was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts on March 24th, 1975. He began his musical studies at the age of 8, inspired by a family friend who played clarinet in local Greek bands, and by Zoot, of the Muppets Band, to pick up saxophone. During high school he performed in his town, district, and all-state bands and wind ensembles, as well as in a jazz combo at a local music school.

In 1993, Rempis began a degree in classical saxophone at Northwestern University with Frederick Hemke. Finding this environment stifling, Rempis quickly ditched the music degree to pursue studies in anthropology and ethnomusicology. As part of these studies, he spent a year at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana, Legon, studying African music and ethnomusicology. He also continued to perform with many different types of groups, ranging from highlife and reggae bands while in Ghana, to jazz, free jazz, funk, and contemporary music ensembles at home. He graduated from Northwestern in 1997.

Upon graduating, Rempis decided to focus on performing, and in March of 1998 at the age of 22 was asked to replace veteran saxophonist Mars Williams in the well-known Chicago jazz outfit The Vandermark Five. This opportunity catapulted him to notoriety as he began to tour regularly throughout the US and Europe playing clubs, concert halls, and festivals on both continents.

During his tenure with The Vandermark Five, Rempis also began to develop the many Chicago-based groups and international collaborations for which he's currently known, including The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Rempis/Abrams/Ra, Wheelhouse, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, and The Rempis/Daisy Duo. Many of these groups have been documented on the Okkadisk, 482 Music, Not Two, Clean Feed, Solitaire, and Utech record labels. Past collaborations have included performances with Paul Lytton, Axel Dörner, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Steve Swell, John Tchicai, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilssen-Love, Nels Cline, Tony Buck, and Joe McPhee. Rempis has been named regularly since 2006 in the annual Downbeat Critics's Poll as a "rising star" on alto saxophone, and as a "rising star" and "established talent" on baritone saxophone.

Aside from performing, Rempis is also active as a presenter. Since 2002, he's curated a weekly Thursday-night concert series for the Elastic Arts Foundation. The series has featured over 500 concerts by some of the best improvisers from around the world, while maintaining a focus on up-and-coming local musicians. In late 2005, Rempis helped form the presenters' collective Umbrella Music, working with a small group of musicians and presenters in Chicago to provide better playing opportunities for creative and improvising musicians. As part of this group, he organized the annual Umbrella Music Festival from 2006-2014.

Rempis is also one of the main organizers of the indie-rock Pitchfork Music Festival, a 60,000-person event which takes place in Chicago's Union Park every July."

-Dave Rempis Website (http://daverempis.com/bio/)
5/28/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Chicago master drummer/percussionist Avreeayl Ra was born in Chicago and still lives there today. He is a renowned musician always in demand among visiting jazz artists in Chicago. Avreeayl's father, Arthur 'Swinglee' O'Neil, was a tenor saxophonist who was mentor to many young Chicago musicians, including John Gilmore, later the mainstay of Sun Ra's Arkestra. Avreeayl is a long-term member of the Chicago AACM, and has performed and/or recorded with Fred Anderson, Amiri Baraka, Fontella Bass, Lester Bowie, Ari Brown, Oscar Brown, Jr., Henry Butler, Henry Byrd ('Professor Longhair'), Hamid Drake, Nicole Mitchell, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Malachi Thompson, and many more."

-Ragdale (http://ragdale.org/residency/resident/avreeayl-ra/)
5/28/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



SIDE A



1. Persea 11:02

2. Fire And Ash 10:03

SIDE B



1. Divisions Of Time 20:59

Related Categories of Interest:


Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
Saxophone & Drummer / Percussionist Duos
Duo Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items

Search for other titles on the label:
Aerophonic.


Recommended & Related Releases:
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