Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CD review: Rempis/Rosaly - Cyrillic

(482 Music)

Horn and drum duo sets can explore any number of different formats: balls to the wall honking, screeching and splattering; pointillist dots of sound that may or may not yield a complete statement; or a strong dialogue that gives the impression that at least one of the musicians is hearing a full band in their head and using that as a guide.

Saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Frank Rosaly draw on a little bit of each of these ideas, which keeps their duets flowing and makes sure that they won't lapse into anything too familiar. Of course, they aren't exactly strangers either. Rempis (who also plays in the Vandermark 5) has lead a quartet that includes Rosaly as one of its two drummers. The saxophonist changes horns on each track, playing alto, tenor and baritone. Different instruments bring out different ideas in his playing, although his baritone tracks seem to feature the most diversity, going from long, vibrato tones to the one track that seems to possess a stated, almost staightforward theme. Frank Rosaly, whose shows up on a myriad of Chicago sessions, begins the album in a most unorthodox manner - considering his background at least - and acts like the in-tune partner throughout, listening closely to Rempis's developments.

On that opener, "Antiphony," ("anti-phony" or "an-TIF-o-nee" - you be the judge), Rosaly's drumming begins by emulating what sounds like the classic "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" drum riff, and taking a detour into waltz time before finally playing a heavy backbeat towards the end. Over this relatively fluid action, Rempis emits short bursts of ideas that blend well.

The other alto showcase, the nearly 16-minute opus "How to Cross When Bridges Are Out," indicates the duo uses time wisely to build and rebuild on ideas. Rempis blows a mix of fast lines, crazy trills, and upper register panic, before his partner takes a solo marked by fast rolls, rim shots and crashes. There is a minute when things get too noodly, but they lock into a wail fest before attrition sets is.

On tenor, Rempis takes a stab at the "classic" free jazz attack on "Tainos" and lands a hit, running fast and wild, with Rosaly moving all over his drum kit to goad him to take it ever higher. "Don't Trade Here," features a lot of staccato tenor, as well as what sounds like a passing reference to Monk's "Evidence."

Only one track fails to break from the meandering. "Still Will" is full of baritone honks and splats and cymbal clicks that plumb the instruments' sonic possibilities, but it doesn't fare well in the momentum department. But otherwise, Cyrillic, which ends with the relatively melodic "In Plain Sight," delivers a focused set of duos.

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