Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Larry Ochs Aram Shelton Quartet, Continental Drift


After more than a year of social distancing we should appreciate more than ever our artists, musical or otherwise, for they keep on in spite of  extraordinary hardships. Performing artists have special challenges with the temporary loss of the all-important in-person audience as a key means of earning daily bread.

So we continue anyway and of course for the music makers recordings and in some cases live internet feeds keep on to give us direct access to what is new as well as what is classic. An excellent piece of newness can be heard in a recent release of the Larry Ochs Aram Shelton Quartet and their album Continental Drift (Clean Feed CF555CD).

The audio program consists of two recording dates, one from July 2013 and the other from July 2018. They feature lively and fitting compositional frameworks by both Aram and Larry, which set up the improvisations nicely and help allow each player to assert his identity and meld together cohesively as a unit. Shelton co-heads the front line on alto sax; Ochs holds up his end on tenor and sopranino. Both players are not only distinctive in their approaches and sound, they also have made noteworthy advances in their open-form ability to play with others in notable melding, Ochs most famously with the ROVA Saxophone Quartet among others, Shelton equally notably in various contexts as well.

Aram began his playing career in Florida, had an important phase in Chicagoland and eventually resettled in the San Francisco Bay area. Ochs has been California rooted much of the time. The mutual California confluence of course formed a happy coincidence-circumstance for their collaborative quartet--and we hear the results gladly in this set.

Swedish drummer Kjell Nordeson nails down the percussion section single-handedly throughout. He has a recognizable sound and an adventuresome attitude whether playing time or breaking free of absolute pulse. Mark Dresser gives us his contrabass presence nicely for the first session; Scott Walton anchors the bass on the second. Both sound perfect for this special quartet format. 

The dual saxophone interplay between Aram and Larry forms the most extraordinary element in this album of music. Their close rapport coupled with the always forward moving rhythm team makes for something very good, very original. If you recall the trombone tandem of JJ and Kai or of course the twin tenors of Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, well imagine something equally together but with a thorough update in tune with the advanced Avant Jazz of today and you would not be far off in preparing yourself for what you will hear on this moving album.

Outstanding solo sax presences and sterling moments of dual reed excursions with first rate modern rhythm set this album apart as exceptional.

Listen to this one by all means. Ochs and Shelton win the day and I hope for many days and years to come. Highly recommended.

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