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Dave Rempis – alto/tenor saxophone
Avreeayl Ra - percussion
Recorded at Constellation in Chicago, February 17th, 2021
Recorded by Nolan Chin
Mixed/mastered by Dave Zuchowski
Design by Johnathan Crawford
Produced by Dave Rempis
Special thanks to Constellation, Mike Reed, and The Walder Foundation
released January 7, 2022
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 is a 100% artist-run label created by well-known Chicago saxophonist Dave Rempis (Rempis Percussion
Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Vandermark Five) to document his ongoing work. His intent with the label is to give him more direct contact with his audience, more control over how his work is presented, and more synchronicity between touring schedules and recorded output....more