It may be too easy to categorize Ballister trio – Chicagoan sax player Dave Rempis and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, as another of the action jazz outfits of Nilssen-Love. No doubt, this trio of strong, opinionated personalities explodes with unabashed energy and uncompromising power, pushing its dense sonic textures to volcanic catharsis. But there is more to its music – surprising, introspective moments, touching and melodic segments that brings to mind the harmonic sophistication of Julius Hemphill groups with cellist Abdul Wadud or the electrified harmolodics of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, arresting sonic explorations and healthy doses of dark humor, as the titles of its pieces suggest (still remembering that its debut album was called «Bastard Strings»).
«The Ballister Monologues», the trio fifth release, capture its last live show in the 2014 American spring tour, in Austin Texas, and is released by the cassette-tape label Monofunus Press. The sound is raw, even messy at times, but feature Ballister in its top muscular form. The first side, «The Woman Who Loved to Make Ballisters Happy», follows the massive, powerhouse drumming of Nilssen-Love and his fast manner of alternating between overlapping rhythms. Nilssen-Love playing keeps Rempis and Lonberg-Holm on their toes and pushes both of them to some brutal, noisy edges. even in this piece most abstract and spare moments. The second side, «My Angry Ballister», begins in a more reserved spirit that highlights the explorative and highly creative sonic range of the three musicians but soon gels into electrifying free jazz piece that stresses the tight interplay of the trio and the charismatic playing of Rempis.
«Worse for the Wear», its sixth release, was recorded live om March 28, 2014 at the Constellation club in Chicago, during the same tour, and is released by Rempis label, Aerophonic Records. This recording channels the raw energy and telepathic interplay of Ballister into more nuanced, richer and far-reaching soundscapes.
The 21-minutes of «Fomax» begins with the muscular, raging blows of Rempis, confronted by Nilssen-Love’s subversive, swinging pulse and Lonberg-Holm’s noisy, spooky undercurrents but surprisingly concludes on a quiet, enigmatic ritualistic mode. On the shorter «Scutum» Nilssen-Love aggressive drumming anchors the trio interplay in a psychedelic fast run and chase. «Vulpecula» feature the trio in a patient and intimate searching mode, exploring weird sounds and colors within an open-ended, low drone structure.
Five years of continuous tours and recordings turned out Ballister into an unpredictable, powerful and always inspiring unit that keeps refining and enriching its sound.
Dave Rempis (as, ts, bs); Fred Lonberg-Holm (c, elec); Paal Nilssen-Love (dr)