Ballister 3 by Lasse Marhaug


Dave Rempis – saxophones
Fred Lonberg-Holm – cello/electronics
Paal Nilssen-Love – drums

Fornax, from Worse For The Wear 2015 (excerpt)

Scutum, from Worse For The Wear 2015 (excerpt)

This free-wheeling trio was an idea discussed for several years by the band members before they eventually met at a closed session in 2009. Since the session felt great, they went ahead with some live dates in 2010, also self-releasing the limited edition live recording Bastard String that year.  Since that time, the band has toured regularly in both the U.S. and Europe, releasing five more recordings, including Mechanisms (Clean Feed Records, 2012) Mi Casa es en Fuego (self-released, 2013),  Both Ends (Bocian Records, 2014, LP only), Worse For The Wear (Aerophonic Records, 2015) and The Ballister Monologues (Astral Spirits, 2015, cassette only/limited edition)

As fans of the music will recognize, this is inevitably a hard-hitting group. The unabashed energy of Rempis and Nilssen-Love, coupled with the electrified cello antics of Lonberg-Holm, make for a powerful listening experience that combines driving grooves with noisy textures and occasional melodic interjections. These sliding and overlapping rhythms often give the music a feeling as if a rug is slowly being pulled out from underneath the listener while the music still maintains a strong forward momentum. Reference points include the Julius Hemphill groups of the 70’s and 80’s featuring Abdul Wadud, Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, and the early 70’s explorations of Miles Davis’ electric bands.

The band is currently planning a short European tour in November of 2016, with a new LP released by the Belgian concert presenters Sound In Motion, and a new cd to be released by Aerophonic Records.  Both recordings were made on their 2015 European tour on back to back nights in Antwerp and London.










Ballister is named after a crossbow, and they put a premium on aggression. There’s a freshness and sense of discovery in their wide-ranging music.  But there’s also a deep and hard-earned understanding between these players which enables them to build tension to the point of shattering, and then surf gracefully upon the shards. 

Let’s hope that those who were at the Hideout in Chicago on June 16th of last year have sufficiently recovered in the meantime, because based on this live recording, they must at least have had their eyebrows scorched off. 

As with all excellent improvisation, the process is seamless, whether the trio is intertwining the cellist’s electronics with the drummer’s ride cymbal or whether they are burning up the stage to some old school energy jazz. The illusion created here is of controlled chaos where themes emerge from the wall of energy and the band directs the current.

Ballister might start with the question,” what do we do with all this energy?” Rage, yes; but there is more…. The trio burns, but not for the sake of combustion. In between the uproar is the meat, the viscera, and the heart of sound. This trio finds beauty in the maelstrom.
-The New York City Jazz Record



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