Dave Rempis – Darren Johnston – Larry Ochs (aka SPECTRAL) / Spectral

Dave Rempis, Alto Saxophone
 / Darren Johnston, Trumpet
 / Larry Ochs, Tenor and Sopranino Saxophones


Track Listing: Traction (8:49); Iterated Integrals (7:29); Wrinkle Wrankle (10:15); How It Started (6:07); Snaggletooth Tussle (4:50)
; Cheek and Bones (6:45)
; The Drop (11:17)

Tracks 3 and 7 recorded by Tom Hunt at Berkeley Arts, Berkeley, California, on May 23, 2012. All other tracks recorded by Eric Moffat at Unsound Studio, San Francisco, on May 25, 2012. Mixdown by Eric Moffat. Mastered by Dave Zuchowski. Design by Johnathon Crawford. Produced by Dave Rempis.

Order the CD via internet from Aerophonic Records

Distribution sources: United States: Squidco, Dusty Groove, Jazz Record Mart, Downtown Music Gallery, Papa Jazz / Europe: Multi-Kulti, Subradar, No Man’s Land, TremAzul, Instant Jazz / Japan: Disk Union

This free-improvising trio came together in the fall of 2011, when Rempis journeyed to the West Coast to discover some things about his compatriots on the Bay Area improving scene. Trumpeter Johnston, a frequent visitor to Chicago, where the two had collaborated in several different settings in the years prior, suggested this trio lineup for a performance at Oakland’s Uptown Nightclub. Although Rempis hadn’t worked with Ochs before, the latter’s renowned experience in the all-horn lineup of The Rova Saxophone Quartet made the idea especially appealing. From the first few notes, that initial meeting flowed comfortably, yet in totally unexpected ways, with all three making logical structural decisions that gave their improvisations the feel of through-composed pieces. Eager to continue developing this language that the three later came to dub “invisible architecture,” Rempis made a follow-up trip to the Bay Area in the spring of 2012 for two more concerts and a studio recording session. Spectral, the first document of their work, was the result of that visit, and shows an improvising trio playing out an audible game of chess. Not satisfied with simply existing in the moment, these three combine sensibilities to look many moves ahead, setting each other up time and again to capitalize on structural possibilities that give rare and meaningful form to an otherwise very spontaneous music.


Spectral Album Review One

When avant chamber jazz turns its attention to small ensembles of horns the emphasis generally turns to color and texture and sometimes less to rhythmic momentum. The playing routines and structure brought to the music, either spontaneously or in terms of pre-planned sequences, usually put the emphasis on the personal intermixtures of the stylists involved.

We can hear this readily and notably in the three-horn presence of Dave Rempis (alto sax), Darren Johnston (trumpet) and Larry Ochs (tenor and sopranino saxes) on the recent album Spectral (Aerophonic 006).

This gathering conjoins the Chicago-based Rempis with two key players associated with the West Coast (Johnston and Ochs) for a series of seven improvised segments that excel in the inspired variety of sounds the three make together, seemingly with pronounced improvisational spontaneity.

Larry Ochs of course is best known for his key association as a member of the Rova Saxophone Quartet, but all three are no strangers to the horn-based chamber style.

All three thrive in their association here. They listen closely to one another and respond with extraordinarily creative utterances. This is music that can go from volcanic explosions of energy to more subdued melodic interplay. The timbres evoked show the great control the artists have gained over the sound possibilities of their respective instruments and the note choices open up the musical universe to subtle or exhilarating melodic variations, sometimes one following close upon the other.

In the end we hear great things, the art of three excellent improvisors forming a synergy that ranks with some of the best such outings in recent years. It is fascinating and ever-moving.

This is real-deal freedom!

Spectral Album Review Two

Spectral is the latest cd from Aerophonic, the label founded by Dave Rempis (alto sax), who, along with Darren Johnson (trumpet) and Larry Ochs (tenor/sopranino sax), collaborated on this session. It is a challenging and ultimately rewarding work.

With no traditional rhythm section, bass and drums, the three horns create a sound that twists and turns around one another, separates and contracts over seven varied tracks. Silence is used as an active part as well, no so much providing pauses or tension but as an atmospheric element that frames the improvisations. A similar example would be Jimmy Giuffre's classic album "Free Fall," from the early 60's.

Throughout the album, the interaction and use of the horns are unique and unexpected. The lead track, 'Traction', has a 'Flight of the Bumblebee' fluttering of the horns, while on 'Snaggletooth Tussle', the trumpet and horns have a call and response interaction, before tumbling into an improvised scuffle.

Everything seems well placed and considered, like active brushmarks in an abstract painting. This is a fine release that grows with repeated listens.