Dave Rempis - saxophones
Tashi Dorji - guitar
Tyler Damon - percussion
photo by Julia Dratel
KUZU is a hard-charging but patient trio that came together in the fall of 2017, after saxophonist Dave Rempis, a stalwart of the Chicago improvised music scene, worked with both Tashi Dorji (guitar) and Tyler Damon (drums) individually as part of a lengthy solo tour of the U.S. that he undertook in the spring of that year. Dorji and Damon’s work as a guitar/percussion duo has become well-known, a highly refined and specific language developed through relentless touring and recording over the last few years, with a sound that straddles improvised music, rock, and any number of as-yet-undefined territories. These two provide an incredibly fresh take on the possibilities inherent to spontaneous composition. Superimposing Rempis into this mix was a logical next step after the relationships they’d forged individually. The trio’s debut record Hiljaisuus (“silence” in Finnish…) was released on LP by the well-known label Astral Spirits in summer 2018, and on cd by Aerophonic Records in January 2019. The band plans two new releases in early 2020 on the same labels, using material recorded live on tour in October 2018. They also plan tours of the US and Europe in 2020.
Musically, these three create a highly focused pallet of sounds. At times, spacious gestures carve up the canvas with the austerity of a calligrapher, while at others those sparse gestures build into an unstoppable tsunami of energy. Those waves are never impulsive or impetuous though, they ebb and flow logically and patiently out of simple and clearly defined sources. This trio pursues every gesture with tenacity, passing them back and forth until they’ve explored every facet of an idea.
all photos by Julia Dratel
Chicago-based saxophonist Dave Rempis' openness to collaboration yields new partnerships at an astounding rate. He played in separate duos with both guitarist Tashi Dorji and drummer Tyler Damon during his 2017 solo tour of the USA. The drummer and guitarist are already an established pairing, so perhaps it was inevitable that Rempis would reunite with both, the resultant threesome being given the name Kuzu. On Hiljaisuus, they unveil a distinctive slant on the power trio, obvious right from the start. While the combination of power and purpose will blow away any cobwebs in style perhaps, more unexpectedly, it will also stimulate and engage in equal measure. 4.5 stars. -John Sharpe, All About Jazz
Hiljaisuus is the Finnish word for silence, and that’s one thing that you will not encounter across the two sides of this LP. Kuzu is a trio that plays free jazz and voltage-enabled improvisation. Dave Rempis is one of the loudest saxophonists in Chicago, a town not known for its retiring reedists, and Asheville, N.C.-based guitarist Tashi Dorji is a master at making six strings sound as big as a bridge’s suspension cables. Percussionist Tyler Damon, who recently left Indiana for the Windy City, combines a sculptural approach to sound with an unreformed ex-skater kid’s love for blurry, break-neck motion. This music is varied and dynamic, but silence isn’t part of the recipe. Excitement is, whether the band is snarled in a three-way tangle or one member of it is blazing flat-out while the others give him space. - Bill Meyer, Magnet
The music on Hiljaisuus is a game of recurring structures. Harmonic islands consisting of staccato and repetitive patterns are used as springboards and fixed points for further improvisation. “Fontanelles 1“, for example, starts with bowed cymbals and arpeggiated guitar chords before Rempis creeps into this structure with mournful lines reminding me of a wounded to death Peter Brötzmann playing John Coltrane’s “Alabama“. Dorji breaks up this structure and after seven minutes the trio reaches a first peak of intensity, with Damon playing dark, almost cymbal-free rolls. Soon Dorji and Rempis agree on one of these aforementioned repetitive unison patterns, they cling to it and open it up as soon as it seems useful. Dorji’s cold, metallic, and percussive tone is often foiled by Rempis’ and Damon’s extreme emotionality - contrast and imitation being further creative tools the trio makes use of. This way, Rempis, Dorji, and Damon invent an enormously tight pallet of sounds, energy being another compositional constituent. In “Gash“, the last of three tracks, the trio generates a constant ebb and flow, starting from coarse chopping that builds a massive, compact wave of sound creating an atmosphere that is tense to the breaking point. Finally, the piece returns to the beginning of “Fontanelle 1“, where everything started. Hiljaisuus is the Finnish word for silence, but the music on this album is the most eloquent silence you’ve ever heard. -Martin Schray, The Free Jazz Blog
Free jazz played at the highest level by a group of like minded musicians with no egos involved. The music flows organically, in a stream of pure sound. Tim Niland, Jazz And Blues Blogspot