Dave Rempis Credit: Geert Vandepoele

Chicago reedist Dave Rempis is well established as one of the city’s finest improvisers, a player who can adjust and adapt to fluid, unexpected musical situations with stunning alacrity, sensitivity, and ingenuity. But his ability to live in the moment doesn’t mean he’s not a thinker and a planner. Rempis has developed a strong practice as a musician through years of toil and focus, and he looks at the big picture with wide-eyed vision. In his liner-note essay for his recent album Lattice (Aerophonic) he admits that he took his time to enter the fray as a solo saxophone improviser, remarking on the lineage of artists that have excelled in the format. He finally took the plunge this past spring, embarking on an extensive U.S. tour that allowed him to both share and sharpen his solo performance skills. He also engaged in the kind of community building that’s made him such an important figure on Chicago’s scene as a key figure behind Elastic Arts; most of his 31 solo sets among 27 cities he visited were complemented with collaborative performances with local musicians. The sometimes fiery, sometimes pensive performances on Lattice reveal the value and rigor of his approach. The percussive pops, rude snorts, key clacking, and tightly coiled upper-register sallies of “If You Get Lost in Santa Paula” and the high-octane blasts, split tones, and screams of “Loose Snus” both convey the kind of muscular, paint-peeling aggression Rempis is known for. He’s one of the loudest saxophonists I’ve ever heard, but it’s the more gentle, more lyric side of the collection that has kept me most riveted. The album opener, a surprising rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s ballad “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” is suffused with tender patience and a foggy tonal aura, its melody emerging from sibilant clouds of sound. “Linger Longer” expresses its lyric soul both directly and through elaborate circular breathing, which creates mosaic-like constructions of glimmering tones.   v