Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Larry Ochs / Aram Shelton Quartet - Continental Drift (Clean Feed, 2020)

Co-led by Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones and Aram Shelton on alto saxophone and supported by Kjell Nordeson on drums and either Mark Dresser or Scott Walton on bass, this excellent modern jazz album was recorded in two sessions that took place five years apart. The music is consistently adventurous, both thematically and in terms of improvisation, beginning with "Another Night" where the second saxophone solo picks up the pace along with the bass and drums, adding raw vigor to the performance, and featuring a biting tone that pushes with might, while acknowledges the nudging bass and drums which things moving. Unadulterated saxophone and percussion create wounded sounds on "Slat," with nearly strummed bass and cymbal playing adding depth and texture. The second saxophone enters, fluttering nervously, and giving the music the frenetic sound of two saxophones together in this setting, which works well. A section for unaccompanied piercing saxophone, followed by saxophones of different hue providing contrast, and a climax of torrid meltdown full band improvisation. "Switch" has propulsive bass playing, underpinning a chugging full band theme with swaggering broad shoulders. Raw saxophone barrels out alongside deep bass and taut drumming, while the second saxophone employs a cleaner tone, the group develops a really nice fast paced performance that incorporates fine rhythm playing throughout. The title track, "Continental Drift" uses bowed bass and raw saxophone to create deep and thoughtful music, free sounding with skittish drumming and untethered saxophone, with patches where the drums lay out for bowed bass and long toned saxophone. On "Strand," bass and drums pick up a very interesting rhythm, where harmonizing saxophones break apart and joust, leading to an exciting collective improvisation, that swirls in a very fast and potent manner. One saxophone solos over complex rhythm, as the horns can weave in and out and then break apart at high speed  creating a group interaction that grows in excitement to a whirling dervish of speed but stops on a dime for a light percussion. solo.Unaccompanied percussion opens "Test Shots" with the horns entering, playing a darker tone, stark sounding and offering a different narrative, as they tack in another direction with a saxophone duetting with beautiful bass playing, bowed and plucked, to develop an interesting mesh of sounds. The massive concluding track, "The Others Dream," builds from a withering saxophone sound with framing drums, with the high tone saxophone snaking through the drumming, as bowed bass joins and adds further depth, and it's resonant sound fills the available space. Saxophones approach as the musicians coalesce in the traditional sense, yet the manner remains very free. Saxophones, bass and drums drums are creating a powerful performance that develops its own arc. There are more open ended percussion sounds just after the midpoint, resetting the performance to a strong full group improvisation with everyone pushing forward in a free but accessible manner, boiling up to a wonderful fast pace, and strong conclusion. This album worked very well, presenting a group of like minded musicians in a setting where they can create without hindrance. The respect they have for the music and for each other and the creative process leads to wonderful and challenging music. Continental Drift - amazon.com

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