Veteran saxophonist, improviser, and composer Dave Rempis performs a solo concert on the Option stage. An interview with Tim Daisy follows. (Photo by Peter Gannushkin.)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, Wheelhouse, Triage, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, and The Rempis/Daisy Duo. Other collaborations have included work with Paul Lytton, Axel Dörner, Fred Anderson, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Steve Swell, John Tchicai, Roscoe Mitchell, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilssen-Love, Nels Cline, and Joe McPhee. Rempis has been named regularly since 2006 in the annual Downbeat Critics’s Poll as a “rising star” on alto saxophone, and as a “rising star” and “established talent” on baritone saxophone. In 2013, he started his own record label, Aerophonic Records, to document this ongoing work.
Aside from his work as a musician and composer, Rempis has worked tirelessly as a presenter. Since 2002, he’s organized and produced a weekly series of improvised music Chicago’s Elastic Arts Foundation. He was a founding member of Umbrella Music, and one of the lead producers and curators of its annual festival from 2006-2014.