Two saxophonists and a trumpeter explore improvised, heady spaces. Info/tix
Chicago saxophonist Dave Rempis has collaborated widely across contemporary jazz and avant-garde music (with artists ranging from the legendary reedist Roscoe Mitchell to experimental guitarist Kevin Drumm), but one of his boldest ventures would surely have to be his improvisational collaboration with trumpeter Darren Johnston and saxophonist Larry Ochs. On the 2014 album Spectral and the two extended live tracks of 2016's Neutral Nation, this all-horns trio (with Rempis switching between alto and baritone, and Ochs switching between tenor and sopranino) certainly has a lot of room to stretch out, exploring a range of eerie timbers and a host of subtle ways to blend them together. But throughout these improvisations the three constantly build taut structures on the fly, often emerging from more textural passages with a burst of smartly interlocking melody.
The literal space part of it becomes even more important on the trio's forthcoming (but already available digitally) third release, Empty Castles, recorded in an old munitions bunker in northern California. The resulting natural reverb brings a rounded heft to sounds ranging from terse, plucky notes to gentle swells of muted trumpet. Standout moments like "Protest Portal" keep the unadorned sax and trumpet sounds at the fore, but often open up to let the listener feel the musicians' vast and slightly mysterious surroundings. Based on what Rempis, Johnston, and Ochs have accomplished so far together, this show promises to be one of the more challenging music events in Madison this spring, and one of the most deeply rewarding. —Scott Gordon