Freewheeling trio Ballister improv their way out of their comfort zones
Between them, their playing history reflects a mind-boggling swath of the international creative music and free jazz scenes: the Vandermark 5, The Thing, Lightbox Orchestra, The Ex, Triage, Atomic and Scorch Trio. Let us introduce you to the three members of Ballister – Dave Rempis (sax), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Two records into their fruitful coupling – the newly minted Mechanism is the one to watch out for now – the band flow with the fire from ghosts of past elders and get spacey and existential at just the right times. A cool breath of fresh air for one and all.
Hour: How did this project come together?
Dave Rempis: This project was an outgrowth of years of doing ad hoc performances together, as well as some regular larger bands. I’ve known Fred since 1998, as we both live in the same city [Chicago]. I met Paal through Ken Vandermark and the group School Days… All three of us played together in Vandermark’s Territory Band in the first half of the 00s. Fred and I have played in a million different contexts in Chicago, and Paal and Fred in the Peter Brötzmann Tentet also. So there are many musical connections. We talked about doing this trio for a couple of years before the opportunity finally arose in 2010.
Hour: You describe the band as a "freewheeling trio." Can you take us a bit deeper into this description?
Rempis: I think it applies to the fact that the band is a free improvising group that tends to be pretty energetic. It also describes the tendency of each of us to push things into strange or different territory, perhaps places that we’re not all even comfortable with. But that’s part of the fun of the group. Fred especially has a strong contradictory streak in him that sometimes makes him like the court jester – incredibly clever and fun to deal with as he pushes against our comfort zones until they’re totally out of whack, which is really a blast to work with as an improvising musician.
Hour: It must be a blast playing and creating for a sax, cello and drum instrumentation project? The directions/results appear from the outside almost endless.
Rempis: It is great – particularly working with Fred and cello, which lends so many possibilities to the direction the music can take. He can be a part of the rhythm section, he can be a melodic voice or he can create a wall of sound with his effects. I just get to be the anonymous saxophone guy while he and Paal play circles around me!
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