Every Tuesday we present Chicago’s top jazz artists in a lively atmosphere, full of cocktail-shaking and spirited conversation.
Saxophonist, improviser, and composer Dave Rempis has been an integral part of the thriving Chicago jazz and improvised music scene since 1997. With a background in ethnomusicology and African studies at Northwestern University, including a year spent at the University of Ghana, Rempis burst onto the creative music scene at the age of 22 when he was asked to join the now-legendary Chicago jazz outfit The Vandermark Five. This opportunity catapulted him to notoriety as he began to tour regularly throughout the US and Europe, an active schedule that he still maintains to the present day. At the same time, Rempis began to develop the many Chicago-based groups for which he’s currently known, including The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Rempis/Abrams/Ra, Wheelhouse, Triage, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, and The Rempis/Daisy Duo. Other collaborations have included work with Paul Lytton, Fred Anderson, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Tomeka Reid, Steve Swell, Elisabeth Harnik, John Tchicai, Roscoe Mitchell, Nate Wooley, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilssen-Love, Nels Cline, and Joe McPhee. In 2013, he started his own record label, Aerophonic Records, to document this ongoing work. Rempis has been named regularly since 2006 in the annual Downbeat Critics’s Poll as a “rising star” on both alto and baritone saxophone, a category that he won in 2017. He was also the recipient of a Ragdale Fellowship from the Herb Alpert Foundation in 2017, as well as an Individual Artists Program grant from the City of Chicago for his solo project “Lattice.”
Rempis’ musical expression draws on a number of touchstones. While heavily improvisational in nature, his Greek ethnicity, studies in jazz and ethnomusicology, an appreciation for the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary composition, and a love for unforgivingly strident yelps, screeches, and squeals that can encompass the ever-evolving state of human depravity all inform his work.
Aside from his work as a musician and composer, Rempis has worked tirelessly as a presenter. Since 2002, he’s curated and produced a weekly series of improvised music at Chicago’s Elastic Arts Foundation, where he now serves as Board President. He was a founding member of the presenters’ collective Umbrella Music, and one of the lead producers and curators of its annual festival of improvised music from 2006-2014. He was also business manager of the Pitchfork Music Festival from 2005-2016, and now works as Operations Manager with the neighborhood-based Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago.