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På skive



«Astragaloi» is the third album of the transatlantic, free improvising trio of Chicagoan sax player Dave Rempis and drummer-percussionist Michael Zerang with Austrian pianist Elisabeth Harnik. The album was recorded live at the opening night of the ArtActs Festival in St Johan Austria in early March 2020, just days before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out right around them in one of the European epicenters of the pandemic, in the Alpine ski areas of Tirol.

This trio performed sporadically since its first concert back in 2013 in Harnik’s hometown of Graz, but all three musicians have worked together in duo contexts since that first meeting. Harnik may be the epicenter of this trio, especially on «Astragaloi», with her rich sonic vision and idiosyncratic language. Her preparations of the piano turn the instrument into a quietly percussive zither, and her hammering of the piano keys draws out the resonance of a full orchestra. But she also knows how to channel Rempis’ ecstatic and fiery energy into more nuanced and introspective textures and how to tie the singular rhythmic approach of Zernag into solidifying the uncommon, democratic unity within the group.

You can sense the immediate affinity and the joy of playing together of these experienced improvisers already in the opening, abstract and mostly contemplative piece «Milkvetch», and within its fast-shifting dynamics and its focus on space, density, color and poetic articulation. The atmosphere remains quiet and thoughtful throughout the performance but suggests the unique manners of exploring nuanced and conversational dynamics. In the following «Macateta», Rempis gently leads the slow-cooking interplay of the trio with a lyrical tone, enjoying the colorful abstraction of his themes by Harnik and the pulse-free drumming of Rempis. «Locoweed» intensifies slowly the commotion and offers fiery yet highly melodic sax lines of Rempis, answered by layered and nuanced rhythmic patterns of Harnik and Zerang. Harnik plays on the strings of the prepared piano and produces resonant rhythmic sounds on «Lafo Litupa», colored immediately by Zerang’s hand drumming and Rempis’ urgent calls, in a way that adds more colors to the thoughtful, conversational dynamics of the trio. The last piece «Goat’s Thorn» returns full circle to the delicate and abstract dynamics of the opening piece, stressing the profound, resonant space in the great trio’s dynamics.

Eyal Hareuveni

Dave Rempis (as, ts), Elisabeth Harnik (p), Michael Zerang (dr, perc)


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