Friday, February 15, 2019

Gerald Cleaver / Nels Cline / Larry Ochs - What Is To Be Done (Clean Feed, 2019)

A trio of three of the most imaginative and in demand improvisers currently playing, Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones, Nels Cline on electric guitar and effects and Gerald Cleaver on drums deliver an astonishingly colorful and satisfying album which was recorded in Richmond, Virginia in December of 2016. The epic "Outcries Rousing" opens the program gradually gathering form and pace with drums and saxophone lending their vice to the formation of the track, with Ochs' sounding raw and immediate and Cleaver's drumming is crisp and true. Cline joins the action, adding accents at first, then becoming enmeshed in the collective interplay. He uses his pedals and effects very well adding interesting colors and textures to the music, before pushing forth with rending chords against primal drumbeats which take the performance in another slightly unnerving direction. Ochs rejoins and the groups becomes an all encompassing sound beast, with massive slabs of  overdriven guitar, ripe saxophone and hammering percussion, their collective improvisation takes things to a stratospheric level that overwhelms the senses in an ecstatic way. Cline and Cleaver develop an interplay of buzzing, whirling wonder with brilliant percussion to keep the momentum going, slipping the Earth's gravity to enter the cosmos. Ochs provides the afterburner as their performance reaches extraordinary heights beyond my ability to describe them, then during the last few minutes of the performance the band powers down and glides peacefully off into the void. The shorter track "A Pause, A Rose" gives the group and the audience a much needed respite between epiphanies, as it is is a spacey and graceful improvisation that uses some wonderful electronic manipulation from Cline, and gentle flutters of saxophone and percussion. "Shimmer Intend Spark Groove Defend" is the final epic on the album and it nearly eclipses the first piece in power and majesty, with tight drumming and saxophone playing framed by spikes of guitar. They build their improvisation slowly and confidently, as the volume and speed of music rises with stark calls of saxophone and passionate drumming and guitar leaving a shower of sparks its wake, with Cline using massive grinding sounds and gales of electronic pedal work. When they come together as a whole though, the power and authority that they have over their music is unmatched. Ochs' sopranino saxophone adds a exotic and fascinating tone to the music, when played off against an explosion of colorful electric guitar and percussion the effect is nearly overwhelming. This group is a true collective, the respect they have for the music and for each other and for the music makes this one of the best discs of this young year, and an absolute lifeline amid the chaos. What is to Be Done - amazon.com

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