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 was asked to replace saxophonist Mars Williams in the well-known Chicago jazz outfit The Vandermark Five. This ass-kicking gig forced him to learn fast, and practice constantly, in order to match the level of playing of the other musicians in the band.
It also gave him the chance to tour throughout the US and Europe playing clubs, concert halls, and festivals on both continents. While Rempis still works with The Vandermark Five, the majority of his work nowadays is done with the many Chicago-based groups that he currently leads or collaborates with. These include The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, The Outskirts, The Rempis/Daisy Duo, Bishop/Rempis/Kessler/Zerang, and Wheelhouse. Past working groups include Triage, and the Dave Rempis Quartet. Many of these groups have been documented on the Okkadisk, 482 Music, Not Two, Solitaire, and Utech record labels.
Rempis also performs and tours with Ken Vandermark’s Territory Band and Resonance Project, and The Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten Quintet. Past collaborations have included performances with Paul Lytton, Axel Dörner, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Steve Swell, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilsson-Love, Tony Buck, and Joe Morris. Rempis has been named twice in the annual Downbeat Critics’s Poll as a rising star in both the alto and baritone saxophone categories. Aside from performing, Rempis is also active as a presenter. From 2002 - 2005, he curated a weekly Thursday-night concert series in conjunction with the Elastic Arts Foundation at their “3030” performance space in Humboldt Park.
In the spring of 2006, he moved the series to EAF’s new Logan Square space, Elastic, where it continues today. The series has featured over 300 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 musicians and presenters from around Chicago to provide better playing opportunities for creative and improvising musicians. As part of this group, he helps to organize the annual Umbrella Music Festival, and was the lead organizer of the Downtown Sound Gallery concert series at Gallery 37 For the Arts in 2006 and 2007. 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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