Dave Rempis

The COVID Tapes

Saxophonist and composer Dave Rempis captures the global anxiety of our times on this aptly titled recording. The music unfolds like snapshots of someone grappling with isolation and seeking meaningful interaction. Recorded between May and September 2020, The COVID Tapes finds the Chicago-based Rempis navigating between soul-stirring solo recitals to intriguing duos and trio explorations.

On solo flights such as his pensive reading of “Just A Gigolo” or his caffeinated take on the standard “On Green Dolphin Street,” listeners can luxuriate in Rempis’ burly and expressive tone on alto and tenor saxophones as well as the idiomatic range that spans from big band and bebop to cutting-edge free-jazz. These performances also invite listeners to project their own ideas onto Rempis’ emotive laments, which echo those of many people who have seemingly cut themselves away from casual physical contact with the greater population.

The duo and trio outings, recorded outdoors, offer glimmers of hope for more communal in-person interaction, but still small-scale. Comparatively more abstract and evocative than the solo excursions, originals such as the chilling “Toron,” the buzzing “Skin And Bones” and the rapturous “Glitch” find Rempis engaging in full-throttle experimental improv with cellist Tomeka Reid and drummers Tyler Damon (in the duo setting) and Joshua Abrams.

How The COVID Tapes will stand among other pandemic era albums is to be determined. But for now, it’s a transfixing and, at times, transportive experience.

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