2019 CD release.
Apsis is the the third recording by this working group since 2014, and it documents a band that has fully incorporated a new member into the mix, transitioning from working trio to working quartet. Although their last record, 2016’s two-disc set Perihelion, featured keyboardist Jim Baker on one of the two discs, that recording was made on the first night Baker joined the band. While that doesn’t diminish the quality of the work presented there – sometimes first meetings are magic – the intervening three years, during which Baker has become an integral part of this band, have produced an improvising ensemble that consistently creates spontaneous long-form compositions with jaw-dropping clarity.
Just listen to the first thirty seconds of the record, where Rempis’ forceful opening on baritone is immediately countered by Baker’s stabbing response on the flat ninth of the key that Rempis’ whole note implies. Abrams enters seconds later with a descending line that gracefully turns a potentially discordant conflict into an achingly haunting tonality, Ra patiently builds his delicate cymbal and snare pattering into a consistent sense of motion, and the band is off to the races on a seamless excursion that lands somewhere between late period Coltrane and Cecil Taylor’s bands with Jimmy Lyons. It’s frankly difficult to believe that this music isn’t pre-composed since so many of the melodic and rhythmic themes the band develops are airtight from the start. But that’s what years of work together brings to the proceedings; trust in one another that ANY gesture can forward the narrative momentum as long as the entire band is committed and tuned in. Actual freedom.
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