Larry Ochs: The Celestial Septet & We All Feel The Same Way
ROVA Sax Quartet/Nels Cline Singers
The synchronicity and boundless energy that separate great groupwork from everything else pervades these two new additions to multi-instrumentalist and composer Larry Ochs' already formidable discography. He has always negotiated the permeable boundaries between improvisation and composition with consummate skill and these two new group projects are no exception.
Think of The Celestial Septet as a union of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet and the Nels Cline Singers; yet, the collective sound belongs to neither aggregate, so diverse is each group's long-fostered identity. The merger's completeness can be gauged from the opening modal swells and beautiful harmonies of "Caesar Chavez," a track originally appearing on drummer Scott Amendola's Believe (Cryptogramophone). Here, it's an astonishing display of orchestral complexity and group communication. Listen to the subtle polyrhythms that Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff lay down, supporting intertwined interjections from the saxophones (Ochs, Bruce Ackley, Jon Raskin and Steve Adams) and Cline's usual timbral unpredictability on guitar. The piece unfolds with glacial inexorability and increased decibel levels before subsiding back into the gorgeous drone that began it. This multifaceted approach is perfect to realize Ochs' mutable compositional vision, as made manifest in the epic and moving "Who's to know." Dedicated to Albert Ayler, the patriarchal saxophonist's flowing lines, pentatonic sonorities and searing intensity vie for prominence in this 25-minute journey through countless emotive states. Ochs leaves plenty of space for individual expression, but there is a sense of guidance throughout as sustained harmonies root, blur and dissolve.
Jones Jones is a relatively new trio formed in 2006 with veteran musicians Mark Dresser (bass) and Vladimir Tarasov (percussion). We All Feel The Same Way's high-energy recordings were taken from two improvised concerts in June 2008, one at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and the other in St. Petersburg, Russia, but the group interplay is at a consistently high level. Right from note one, the music can stop on a dime with the same frequency as it plumbs timbral depths. All play wonderfully, as might be expected, but Dresser's rapid-fire bowings and buzzed multiphonic staccatos are stunning. Despite being an often wild ride, some of the best moments involve the group's more introspective ruminations; sample the beginning of "Microtonal Miss Jones" where Tarasov and Dresser engage in a percussive dialogue as Ochs' multiphonic sopranino renders the title apt before hell breaks loose.
Both discs are recorded well, with lots of room environment apparent on We All Feel The Same Way, enhancing the live feel. Both demonstrate grit, contrast and sophistication appropriate to the music and are highly recommended.
Tracks and Personnel
The Celestial Septet
Tracks: Cesar Chávez; Trouble Ticket; Whose to Know (for Albert Ayler); Head Count; The Buried Quilt.
Personnel: Bruce Ackley: soprano and tenor saxophones; Steve Adams, alto and sopranino saxophones; Scott Amendola: drums; Nels Cline: guitar; Devin Hoff: bass; Larry Ochs: tenor and sopranino saxophones; Jon Raskin: baritone, alto and sopranino saxophones.
We All Feel The Same Way
Tracks: In Jones we Trust; Type Jones Positive; Jones Zones; Have you met Miss Microtonal Jones?; We All Feel the Same Way.
Personnel: Larry Ochs: saxophones; Mark Dresser: basses; Vladimir Tarasov: percussion.