Dave Rempis / Elisabeth Harnik / Michael Zerang – Astragaloi (Aerophonic / Idyllic Noise Records, 2022)

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Squeaking in just under the wire before the pandemic turned the world upside down, this album was recorded at an arts festival in alpine Austria in March of 2020. The sound is a fresh and evolving performance with Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones, Elizabeth Harnik on piano, and Michael Zerang on drums and percussion. These musicians have performed and recorded several times together both as a trio and as parts of other units so they are well aware of the potential that exists for making exploratory and exciting music. Pianist Harnik feels most at home, being a native of Austria, and she contributes mightily to this album’s success, not only through her imaginative keyboard playing, but her more avant-garde uses of the strings inside the piano, adding harp like sounds that in effect add a fourth instrument to the band’s repertoire. Percussionist Michael Zerang works well in these chiaroscuro areas of light and shade, playing with a dynamic freedom that allows him to respond immediately to whatever is happening around him as well as tug the music into a different direction with subtle swells or cymbal shimmers. Dave Rempis rounds out the group and his playing on alto and tenor saxophone is well suited for this free and open situation. This allows the musicians to really develop a focused three way conversation that has has episodes of free improvisation, but it is the dynamic range of their instruments and the tension and resolution of these performances within a larger framework which provides the forward momentum powering a very exciting and engaging session. The music builds upon the color and dynamics that the team builds, and with everyone playing together, all three musicians are successful in developing a coherent narrative that moves forward in a logical and enjoyable way. Astragaloi – Bandcamp

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