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On and On: Old Friend Dave Rempis Returns to Cleveland


At this point, Dave Rempis, who will appear with drummer Tyler Damon at Saturday gig presented by New Ghosts, is a known quantity in Cleveland. By his own count, the Chicago multi-reedist said, “I must’ve played there 12 or 15 times. It’s often more than once a year. Oh man, the list goes on and on.”

That it does. And so does the list of bands and settings that he’s brought to here. “Ballister [a trio with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilsson-Love] has probably played there four times, maybe more,” he said. Digging into his memory, he recalled appearances by the Rempis Percussion Quartet, a trio with Brandon Lopez and Ryan Packard, by Spectral, horn trio with Larry Ochs and Darren Johnston, a sideman gig with clarinetist James Falzone’s Renga Ensemble. “I’ve definitely been there as a duo, I think, with Frank Rosaly and maybe Tim Daisy, Kuzu with Tyler Damon and Tashi Dorji . . . “

Dave RempisThe breadth of Rempis’ touring experience That list is a pretty good sign that while Rempis’ visits here might be frequent, they are never routine. Chalk this up to the man’s inexhaustible range of interests. In addition to being a rangy and probing instrumentalist, Rempis owns a label, Aerophonic Records, which has issued more than three dozen releases in 10 years. He curates the weekly concert series at Chicago’s Elastic Arts and serves as operations manager for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival that draws 10 to 15 thousand visitors over two days in September. He’s also taken a lead in raising funds for fellow Chicago saxophonist Mars Williams, who is undergoing cancer treatment. With so many irons in the fire, it’s a wonder that Rempis has time to pick up his horn.

“It’s difficult for me to not be busy,” Rempis admitted. Even during the depths of the pandemic when touring and live performances opportunities disappeared, his creative output arguably increased.

“I went overboard with a record label during that time,” he said. “I think I ended up putting out six hard copy recordings that year and also did 15 digital-only releases basically tied into a Wednesday night concert series that I was doing–solo concerts, broadcast from my practice space where I would play and talk for about an hour.”

Rempis is grateful to return to road dog mode, though that road is bumpier and less scenic than it used to be. “Things have changed. Presenters aren’t there anymore. Clubs have closed. Audiences have dried up.” Longer tours have become problematic. “It’s like there’s holes in the map of the United States that just don’t let you get from here to here in a day, and that’s a problem when you’re on the road paying your own expenses.”

His current tour with drummer Tyler Damon is a compact five-day swing through the Midwest with Cleveland as the penultimate stop. It started in Bloomington, Indiana and makes a stop tonight at Lafayette, Indiana’s Spot Tavern, where Rempis and Damon met in 2014.

“It was one of those nights where you’re on a double bill and you’re like, ‘Man, who the fuck are these guys? This is great.’ We kept in touch after that and started playing together around 2017,” Rempis said. “The duo project has been kind of going ever since then and it’s something we’ve done off and on.”

Rempis’ association with New Ghosts, the Cleveland presenting organization, go back even further. “I’ve been working with Matt [Laferty] since he started doing concerts,” Rempis said “We’ve had a longstanding relationship since that time and, you know, he’s a fantastic guy, great to hang out with. He’s super into the music and anytime we’re going out, it’s a gig I try to get.”

The association began with a memorable concert by Ballister at Speak in Tongues, the Lorain Avenue DIY space in a building once owned by the Communist Party. “We walked in and there’s a half pipe in the venue with a skateboarder going back and forth from one end up the stage, down across the floor, up this ramp on the other side–as we’re loading in. It was totally a scene at that place, a riot, too,” Rempis said.

Saturday’s concert at Mistake By The Lake Records is less than a mile down the road from that space in a neighborhood that is rapidly changing. The music scene, too, looks different than it did when Rempis arrived in Chicago from his native Wellesley, Massachusetts 30 years ago. In that time–and especially since the pandemic–his appetite for music making has taken on a fresh urgency.

“This is a very special thing to be able to do and we may not be able to do this forever,” he said. “So, you know, we better get it done while we can,” he said. “I’m not going to do stuff just to keep busy. I’m not going to do stuff that doesn’t feel like it’s paying fairly for what it is. It’s OK to play four times in a month and have those things be important and special things.”

Rempis/Damon Duo with silvervest Saturday, May 27, 8 p.m. at Mistake By The Lake Records, 6502 Lorain Ave, Cleveland. $20 suggested donation. All money goes to the artists. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Three To Get Ready

There’s never a bad time to get out and commune in the same room with creative musicians. Below are three musical events of interest in the coming week that you might want to check out.

Music Of Tadd Dameron with Vanessa Rubin
Saturday, May 27, 7 p.m.
Edwins Too, 13220 Shaker Square, Cleveland (tickets at door)

In 2019, vocalist Vanessa Rubin tipped her cap to fellow Cleveland native Tadd Dameron by recording arrangements of Dameron compositions by luminaries such as Jimmy Heath and Willie Smith. Rubin will pour her velouté-smooth voice over some of these songs at this Saturday evening show at a place that knows a thing or two about rich and satisfying cuisine.

Sammy DeLeon Latin Jazz Sextet
Sunday, May 28, 7 p.m.
Market Garden Brewery, 1947 W. 25th St., Cleveland (tickets)

Every time pianist Jackie Warren and ebullient percussionist Sammy DeLeon get together, a celebration is likely to erupt. So what better time to catch them than on a holiday weekend? The duo simpatico will be joined by a front line of Scott McKee, trumpet and Mark Mauldin, trombone, bassist Elmer Arocho and percussionist Ray Guzman.

Alex Anest Organ Trio
Saturday, May 27, 8 p.m.
Treelawn Social Club 15335 Waterloo Rd., Cleveland (tickets)

Guitarist Alex Anest grew up in Columbus, but he’s absorbed the tasteful, deeply swinging tradition of Detroit, his new musical home base. With his organ trio, he also honors another aspect of Motor City music that should be right at home at Eric Hanson’s new Collinwood outpost.

Information for this section came from Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events.