Dave Rempis on the Thursday night Improvised Music Series at Elastic Arts, now in its 15th year

The How, Where, and What For - of the Thursday night Improvised Music Series

Saxophonist, improviser and music presenter Dave Rempis came to Chicago in 1993 to study music at Northwestern University - and rather quickly found himself deeply embedded in Chicago's vibrant jazz and improvised music scenes. Asked to join The Vandermark Five in 1998 at the age of 22, he has since regularly toured throughout the US and Europe - developing Chicago and international projects like The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Rempis/Abrams/Ra, Wheelhouse, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, The Rempis/Daisy Duo, and Gunwale. Collaborations have included performances with heavy hitters Paul LyttonAxel DörnerPeter BrötzmannHamid DrakeSteve Swell, John TchicaiRoscoe MitchellFred AndersonKevin DrummPaal Nilssen-LoveNels ClineTony Buck, and Joe McPhee - among others. 

Rempis continues to create opportunities for artists in and around as a presenter. Since 2002, he has organized a weekly Thursday-night concert series for the Elastic Arts Foundation. The series has featured over 600 concerts by some of the best improvisers from around the world while maintaining a focus on up-and-coming local musicians. 

2017 marks the 15th year of the Thursday night series, organized, curated, and run by Dave Rempis (you'll often find him collecting money at the door or manning the sound board). Chicago Artists Resource asked Dave to explain the series' history, place, and purpose - in his own words.

Visit Elastic Art's Calendar for the upcoming schedule of Improvised Music Concerts, happening every Thursday. (Also of note, Dave's group Gunwale is currently in residence at The Burlington - playing every Tuesday in the month of January).

We asked Dave to tell us, in his own words - the how, where, and what for - of the series, published below.



The Thursday night Improvised Music Series at Elastic Arts started in April of 2002 but has some background that goes back even further. In the 90's, Ken Vandermark had a long-running Thursday night series at the Lunar Cabaret, on Lincoln Ave just north of Diversey.  This was where I first saw so many great Chicago improvisers who I still work with - Ken, Mars Williams, Kent Kessler, Jim Baker, Harrison Bankhead, Steve Hunt, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and on and on! 

When the Lunar stopped hosting music concerts around 1997, Ken began booking Thursdays at the Nervous Center - a small, short-lived basement space, below a cafe, right next door to the Davis Theater in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.  He did that for about a year, then handed it off to to the drummer Tim Daisy - a very close collaborator of mine since that time. We started doing lots of concerts together there from 1998-2001.

When the basement space stopped functioning in the fall of 2001, or thereabouts, I had some college friends who had been running a rehearsal space and recording studio as an artists' collective, down in Pilsen - at 500 W. Cermak - since 1998. They started doing some events around the year 2000, but were kicked out of the building for hosting underground events, only a year later.  Looking for a new place to host concerts, they found this great little church in Humboldt Park at 3030 W. Cortland, which they re-opened as an underground venue called "3030". I decided this would be a good place to continue the Thursday night tradition, which has continued ever since and now going for 15 years this Spring. We've done over 600 concerts in total between 3030 (2002-2005), the first space known as Elastic at 2830 N. Milwaukee (2006-2014), and the current space, Elastic Arts at 3429 W. Diversey (2015-present) in Logan Square. What was early on,a very underground venue, has become a formal 501 (c)(3) Not-For-Profit organization with proper licenses, funders, etc. 

Musicians playing alternative types of music need places to play.  While Chicago has plenty of venues for live music, not all of them are suited to the special set of needs that improvised music has - namely a space that's quiet.  The dynamic range of the music, and the type of listening and focus that it requires of the musicians means that a bar, and a bar's accompanying chatter, often won't work.  Bars are not always willing to create a close-focus concert setting, because it can kill a part of their business, in many cases.
So I started this series somewhat selfishly, knowing that I wanted another suitable venue to present my work on a regular basis.  There was also an incredible and active generation of improvisers coming up who needed the same support, space, and opportunity to play.  I saw this as a great chance to give that entire generation of folks a chance to develop their work, many of whom couldn't get a gig at more established venues like The Empty Bottle, which at the time had a well-known series.
The Improvised Music Series continues for exactly the same reason.  Artists working outside of the mainstream don't have many options for where to present their work, and this space has become one of the vital centers for that in Chicago.  (Not to mention that I still get to put myself on the calendar here from time to time without begging someone to get back to me....)
I really think of this series - and the Elastic Arts space in general, since I'm now an active part of running the organization [ed. note: Rempis is Elastic's Board President] - as an incubator for artists to develop work. It's always exciting to present high profile artists from Chicago and abroad to a packed room, but the best feeling of all is presenting an incredible concert by a group of younger players to 15 or 20 people. Because you know they're headed somewhere. After 15 years doing this series, looking at the amazing roster of once up-and-coming artists who have performed at Elastic Arts and are now getting the type of national and international attention they deserve is incredibly rewarding. We're solidly on to showcasing a third, younger generation of improvising musicians, who are also going to be making serious contributions to the ongoing artistic dialogue of this worldwide scene in no time at all.
-Dave Rempis


The Improvised Music Series continues its 15th year of concerts every Thursday at Elastic Arts.


As told to Chicago Artists Resource by Dave Rempis.


Feature photo by: Jim Newberry

Inset photo by: Dan Mohr

Published by Chicago Artists... on Wed, 01/25/2017 - 4:54pm
Updated on Tue, 02/07/2017 - 3:02pm
Dave Rempis on the Thursday night Improvised Music Series at Elastic Arts, now in its 15th year | Chicago Artists Resource


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