Since settling in San Francisco in 1997, Canada-born trumpeter/improviser/composer/songwriter Darren Johnston has collaborated and recorded with an extremely diverse cross-section of artists. His interests rotate around composing instrumental music, writing songs, and performing all styles of jazz, experimental and purely improvised music, as well as traditional music of the Balkans, Greece, and Macedonia. These interests have coalesced into his primary ensemble of late, Broken Shadows, which unites musicians from all the aforementioned communities.
He has performed and/or recorded with luminaries such as ROVA Sax Quartet, Fred Frith, Myra Melford, Ben Goldberg, Matt Wilson, Mark Dresser, Marshall Allen, and many others, with a special fondness for relationships he’s forged over the years with representatives from Chicago's own incredible improvising community. Current projects in this regard include Dave Rempis (in a horn trio with Larry Ochs), and a new-born duo with percussionist/sound artist Tim Daisy.
As a composer, he has written for jazz and/or non-idiomatic improvising groups, big bands, string quartet, and even a multi-generational choir, with songs based on a collection of immigrant letters. He has written for dance companies such as Amy Seiwert’s Imagery, Deborah Slater, Axis Dance, Robert Moses’ Kin, Liss Fain, and others, as well as for dance films.
Projects with the support of: Initiative Musik, Staatsministerium für Kultur und Medien, Kunststiftung NRW, Deutscher Musikrat, Akademie der Künste der Welt, Kultursekretariat NRW, Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, Landesmusikrat NRW, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatstheater Mainz, Staatstheater Hannover, ON Neue Musik Cologne, RheinEnergieStiftung Kultur, Kulturamt der Stadt Köln, Kulturamt der Stadt Düsseldorf, Kulturamt der Stadt Essen, Kulturbehörde Hamburg, Hamburgische Kulturstiftung, Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln, Köln Musik, Acht Brücken, RWE Stiftung für Energie & Gesellschaft, Second Floor e.V., Jazz Offensive Essen, ZKM Karlsruhe etc.
He has worked with: Evan Parker, Phil Minton, John Russell, Paul Lytton, Frank Gratkwoski, Michael Vorfeld, Rudi Mahall, Tobias Delius, Liz Allbee, Christian Lillinger, Ute Wassermann, John Butcher, Burkhard Beins, Axel Dörner, Ignaz Schick, Jan Roder, Mazen Kerbaj, Thomas Lehn, Wilbert de Joode, Christian Weber, Steve Heater, Mia Zabelka, Han Bennink, Tristan Honsinger, Anne La Berge, Robert van Heumen, Jim Denley, Mike Majkowski, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Thieke, Sofia Jernberg, Audrey Chen, Peter Jacquemyn, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Robert Landfermann, Jon Rose, Sebastian Gramss, Alfred Zimmerlin, Mette Rasmussen, Chris Corsano, Xavier Charles, Kaja Draksler, Birgit Ulherr, Hans Tammen, Tiziana Bertoncini, Rachel Musson, Harald Kimmig, Richard Scott, Matthias Müller, Christian Marien, Korhan Erel, Tomomi Adachi etc.
Concerts led him through all parts of Europe, Asia, Afrika and Northern America.
Dave Rempis was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts on March 24th, 1975. He began his musical studies at the age of 8, inspired by a family friend who played clarinet in local Greek bands, and by Zoot, of the Muppets Band, to pick up saxophone. During high school he performed in his town, district, and all-state bands and wind ensembles, as well as in a jazz combo at a local music school.
In 1993, Rempis began a degree in classical saxophone at Northwestern University with Frederick Hemke. Finding this environment stifling, Rempis quickly ditched the music degree to pursue studies in anthropology and ethnomusicology. As part of these studies, he spent a year at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana, Legon, studying African music and ethnomusicology. He also continued to perform with many different types of groups, ranging from highlife and reggae bands while in Ghana, to jazz, free jazz, funk, and contemporary music ensembles at home. He graduated from Northwestern in 1997.
Upon graduating, Rempis decided to focus on performing, and in March of 1998 at the age of 22 was asked to replace veteran saxophonist Mars Williams in the well-known Chicago jazz outfit The Vandermark Five. This opportunity catapulted him to notoriety as he began to tour regularly throughout the US and Europe playing clubs, concert halls, and festivals on both continents.
During his tenure with The Vandermark Five, Rempis also began to develop the many Chicago-based groups and international collaborations for which he’s currently known, including The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Rempis/Abrams/Ra, Wheelhouse, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, andThe Rempis/Daisy Duo. Many of these groups have been documented on the Okkadisk, 482 Music, Not Two, Clean Feed, Solitaire, and Utech record labels. Past collaborations have included performances with Paul Lytton, Axel Dörner, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Steve Swell, John Tchicai, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilssen-Love, Nels Cline, Tony Buck, and Joe McPhee. Rempis has been named regularly since 2006 in the annual Downbeat Critics’s Poll as a “rising star” on alto saxophone, and as a “rising star” and “established talent” on baritone saxophone.
Aside from performing, Rempis is also active as a presenter. Since 2002, he’s curated a weekly Thursday-night concert series for the Elastic Arts Foundation. The series has featured over 500 concerts by some of the best improvisers from around the world, while maintaining a focus on up-and-coming local musicians. In late 2005, Rempis helped form the presenters’ collective Umbrella Music, working with a small group of musicians and presenters in Chicago to provide better playing opportunities for creative and improvising musicians. As part of this group, he organized the annual Umbrella Music Festival from 2006-2014.
Rempis is also one of the main organizers of the indie-rock Pitchfork Music Festival, a 60,000-person event which takes place in Chicago’s Union Park every July.
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