Review: Ballister, Mechanisms

When I unpacked this particular CD, I saw Dave Rempis name on the credits and put it on right away. I will admit to barely glancing at the front cover, and that’s how I explain that, for weeks, I thought the name of this band was “Ballsier.” If you listen to this record, you’ll think the same thing.

This is music that kicks ass in the best sense: it is infectiously exciting, physically exhilerating, intellectually challenging — and slightly exhausting. I imagine that’s what the audience for this live recording experienced.

Dave Rempis, the leader on sax, is a powerful and fascinating player, and I hope to hear more from him. There’s a hyper-masculine quality, in the best sense, about his playing. His physicality and confidence are balanced by a searching, curious intellect, and very quick ears. He’s the kind of player who can improvise for a half an hour, most of it wailing and rapid flurries of notes, but he is always saying something interesting and he is always, even at extremes of tempo, register and dynamics, saying it coherently. High achievments.

The group is rounded out by Fred Lonberg-Holm playing cello and Paul Nilssen-Love at the drums, and they equal Rempis in energy and concentration. Lonberg-Holm picks up Rempis’ threads and takes them in surprising and beautiful directions. Great playing all around, great thinking all around. Music-making like this is important, challenging the listener with aesthetics and values, but making the argument persuasively, even at the margins. One of the best CDs of 2012. They say Ballister, I say ballsiest.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.