Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core

Stone Shift

Tenor saxophonist and composer Larry Ochs is a founding member of
Bay Area saxophone quartet ROVA (he’s the “O”), virtually an
institution in the frequently overlapping international scenes of
avant-garde jazz, improvised music, and contemporary notated
composition (the latter being what some folks these days refer to as
“classical” music).

This time out, Ochs’ Core, drummers Donald Robinson and Scott
Amendola, is augmented by the married Japanese duo of Satoko Fujii
(piano, synthesizer) and Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), both established
leaders in the “out” music scenes of Tokyo and New York City. Together,
this trio-plus-duo makes beautifully stormy, turbulent music together.
Ochs’ full-bodied tenor is out of the John Coltrane/Albert Ayler “free”
tradition: forceful, passionate, frequently overblown (distorted),
ecstatic, and talking-in-tongues. Fujii plays with a spiky, driven
lyricism descended from McCoy Tyner and Don Pullen, and Tamura
frequently employs extended techniques (above and beyond the “normal”
range of the trumpet). The oddly titled “Abstraction Rising” features
some bristling, melancholy free-bop (à la Andrew Hill), with
Ochs nodding towards the blues (à la Sam Rivers) and Tamura
paying subtle tribute to Freddie Hubbard. (While thought of primarily
as a mainstream player, the late Hubbard played on some avant
touchstones, such as Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz and Hill’s
Point of Departure.) The tour de force “Across From Over” finds
the drummers laying down a marchlike groove over which Ochs (obliquely)
struts, investing his skronk with a bit of New Orleans flair, until
Tamura enters, whose cries evoke Don Cherry and Fujii makes like John
Medeski on Mars before launching shards of synthesizer freak-out.

Occasionally Stone Shift is a wee bit too abstract (the title
track), but the exhilarating fire and riveting conviction throughout is
hard to beat. (Rogue Art)

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