«Scylla» is the fourth album by the long-standing, Chicagoan improvising ensemble of sax hero Dave Rempis, double bass player Abrams and drummer-percussionist Avreeayl Ra, and the third featuring now-regular band member pianist and electronics player Jim Baker. The album was recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic at the quartet’s home base, the Elastic Arts in Chicago in July 2021, after 15 months of being closed to the public.
«Scylla» features the first performance of this longstanding group, but also a meeting of the Chicagoan community of musicians, fans and friends with deep roots and interests in the rich history of jazz and improvised music. All were ready to process the sense of loss, and the isolation that had devastated so many lives during the pandemic.
Rempis, Abrams, Ra and Baker are of different ages, approaches and interests but all have a clear mission, to create ecstatic, spiritual energy, colored by profound and patient dynamics and rare beauty. This live set was opened by Ra’s spontaneous spoken dedication during this short solo mbira piece, «Survivors»: «This is for all the survivors», which was in fact the coda of the set. This piece set the deep emotional tone for the following spiritual, extended improvisations «Between A Rock» and «Viscosity». Rempis introduces «Between A Rock» with a mourning, bluesy tone that would define this 35-piece. The quartet often explores its potent energy but through a patient and open interplay, with enough space for individual solos. The 27-minute «Viscosity» deepens these melancholic and spacious veins and suggests a more ethereal and trance-like atmosphere, colored by vintage synth sounds of Baker and the wooden flute of Ra.
An inspiring performance, for the band and audience alike, to continue with patience and resilience in the face of these brutal times.
Dave Rempis (as, ts, bs), Jim Baker (p, elec), Joshua Abrams (b), Avreeayl Ra (perc, mbira, wooden fl)