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A CIVIL RIGHT (June 2021)

by Larry Ochs - Don Robinson Duo

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    "There is such freedom, rapport, a sense of daring, testimony and empathy here in what is one of the finest free-jazz albums that I have heard this year up there with All Knavery and Collusion. Sax titan Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones makes the spirits rejoice and Robinson following a multi-directional style on drums reach heights few alive in the idiom can match. There is a concision even in the longest tracks 'Arise the Poet' and 'The Others Dream'. Above all the conversational dimension and wide screen vision the two achieve is striking, nothing is forced, ideas are explored and resolved. I haven't heard a better duo in the same idiom since 2015's Dem Ones. Before listening to this record I could scarcely imagine what it would be like falling from a plane without a parachute. I can now. A free fall for all" Stephen Graham in Marlbank - July 7, 2021

    The CD comes in a classic Digipak case, with awesome cover art by artist Emilie Clark. The Duo really spent alot of time getting the band's musical world to a more focused place after The Throne - the first CD on the label Not Two - was produced. Tried hard to combine ideas begun in free improvisations that were recorded in concert or in rehearsals, then dissected, discussed and reconstructed (with conceptual additions and subtractions), until we honed pieces to a place we felt they could remain interesting, upon repeated plays, during further rehearsal/jams and concerts.

    A few words on each piece:
    "Arise the Poet" was originally inspired by a traditional French folk song Ochs heard sung at a memorial service for poet Bill Berkson. The song immediately made him think of Ayler's use of anthems in much of his free jazz work, and he spent some time writing an anthem-like head for a new free piece. Other elements were later contributed by Robinson, and the overall arc of this extended work call "Arise the Poet"

    "Yesterday and Today" evolved over several years of rehearsals, first conceived by Robinson as a piece upon which he would focus on metal instruments, and it still has an emphasis on the cymbals, though other ideas have entered the picture. He also wanted a certain feel to it, which led to Ochs performing exclusively on sopranino.
    a
    "A Civil Right" is 100% Robinson's conception... a dream... an homage to the deep blues; to the essence of feeling and expression. A cry for recognition of what needs rebalancing.

    "The Others Dream" was originally created for this Duo and actually performed on a European tour back in 2012. It already sounded good on that tour and could have been recorded awhile ago. But the opportunity to record a completely new program for this CD had to wait for all the other pieces to evolve / develop / come to life. (You can also hear The Others Dream performed on CD by The Fictive Five and by Ochs-Shelton Quartet.)

    "Regret"serves as the follow-up to or descendant of "Failure" from CD 1.

    "...a sometimes stark, brilliantly focused program. While the saxophone-and-drums format may suggest a certain excess, Ochs and Robinson invert the expectation, creating profoundly elegiac music with an economy that only magnifies its power. Recorded in 2018/19, it might suggest a Trump-era Jeremiad; heard in 2021, it’s larger than that: wise survivors reassembling, still whole, facing the difficult prospects of renewal."
    - -- Stuart Broomer @ freejazzblog.org June 18, 2021

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Regret 05:48

about

Five duos for your listening pleasure -- honed over many years from multiple free + structured improvisations, as well as time taken for composing, rehearsing and conversations. The new CD has been released on ESP-Disk' - the legendary free jazz label where Albert Ayler released his breakthrough recording in 1964, the first jazz recording on ESP. A lot has changed since 1964, but a lot - and perhaps too much - remains virtually the same. So our "free jazz" music, while influenced by many musical discoveries and sociological developments that have become part of the firmament over the past 60+ years, still celebrates and revels in the spirit of sixties free jazz. Once again: "Now the Time has Come."

"...a sometimes stark, brilliantly focused program. While the saxophone-and-drums format may suggest a certain excess, Ochs and Robinson invert the expectation, creating profoundly elegiac music with an economy that only magnifies its power. Recorded in 2018/19, it might suggest a Trump-era Jeremiad; heard in 2021, it’s larger than that: wise survivors reassembling, still whole, facing the difficult prospects of renewal."
- -- Stuart Broomer @ freejazzblog.org June 18, 2021


"...the Ochs-Robinson Duo serves up a pungent and inspired helping of free jazz on A Civil Right. The pair dives right into an adept dialogue of tenor saxophone and drums on Arise the Poet. It serves as a richly detailed introduction to their conversational and improvisational styles. A beautifully developed Robinson cymbal solo starts off Yesterday and Tomorrow, which features Ochs on sopranino saxophone, an octave higher than an alto. The best moments of the piece come when Robinson switches to thunderous drums and Ochs takes flight with long, sinuous tones. Ochs’ gruffly vocalized and testifying tenor on Robinson’s A Civil Right is a showcase for the saxophone language that he’s developed over decades in the Rova Saxophone Quartet and myriad other projects. After an initial drum roll flurry, Robinson merely keeps time with bass drum and hi-hat for the entire piece. Ochs’ The Others Dream is a strong full-bore burst of sound, with some biting sopranino work, more powerhouse tenor and hard-driving drumming by Robinson, including a lengthy and absorbing drum solo. The doomy sound of mallets on tom-toms opens the finale, Regret, a ravishing melody by Ochs that’s emotionally rich and piercingly tender. Robinson, a minimalist at heart, keeps the rolling toms going for the entire performance, another gem in a series of superb performances. Absolutely recommended." - Stuart Kremsky in "Mr. Stu's Listening Room" Blog - August 2021

Although Ochs and Robinson have collaborated in various groups for 30 years, their duo is a 21st century phenomenon, evolving over the past 11 years. Ochs says: “Our playing together has gotten to a really special place, I think. We’re definitely coming out of the tradition of horn-drum duos from John Coltrane & Rashied Ali to Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo, but we’ve found our own space in that Galaxy after a long stretch of shows together. The CD includes some high-energy playing and moments that are more spatial and introspective. In a duo setting like this, the music hits a listener right away – nothing is obscured, everything is clear.”

Ochs and Robinson first performed together from 1991 to 1998 in The Glenn Spearman Double Trio. From 1994 to 2002, they worked with bassist Lisle Ellis in the trio What We Live, a band that recorded many CDs and added incredible guests for special concerts/recordings including Dave Douglas, Wadada Leo Smith, Nels Cline, Miya Masaoka, Saadet Turkoz and Chris Brown, among others. From 2000 until 2010 Robinson was part of the Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core featuring drummer Scott Amendola, as well as the additions of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura from 2007 - 2010. Throughout all this time, Ochs and Robinson jammed and rehearsed in Robinson’s studio, easily done as they live only 15 minutes apart. Thus it seems inevitable that they would – eventually - create a special repertoire for this duo.

Don Robinson, drums:
Donald Robinson is a technical master of the drums. Long-time studies with funk- master Charles Cook, and also with bebop pioneer Kenny Clarke in Paris in the 1970’s, honed his physical technique. Performing with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Glenn Spearman, Lisle Ellis, and Rova Sax Quartet honed his mental acuity. He is a stalwart of the San Francisco Bay Area avant-garde jazz scene, playing and recording with many of the area's improvisational players, from saxophonists John Tchicai, Marco Eneidi and Larry Ochs to koto player Miya Masaoka and pianist Matthew Goodheart. He has also been Bay Area drummer of choice for prominent visitors like Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor, Joe McPhee, George Lewis, Raphe Malik, Dave Douglas, and Paul Plimley.

Much of Robinson's work has seen him featured in the stellar rhythm section of Robinson and bassist Lisle Ellis, especially including the band "What We Live” with Larry Ochs on saxophones, a trio that toured in Europe and North America from 1994 – 2002, sometimes with special guests such as Dave Douglas, Wadada Leo Smith or Kazakh vocalist Saadet Turkoz. Recordings with all three of these artists were made in that period as well as three trio recordings.

credits

released June 25, 2021

LARRY OCHS – tenor + sopranino saxophones
DON ROBINSON – drums

1. ARISE THE POET (12:33)
2. YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW (8:58)
3. A CIVIL RIGHT (5:37)
4. THE OTHERS DREAM (13:03)
5. REGRET (5:40)

Track 1 by Larry Ochs & Don Robinson.
Tracks 2 + 3 by Don Robinson.
Tracks 4 and 5 by Larry Ochs.
Don Robinson compositions © & ℗ STIM.
Larry Ochs compositions © & ℗ Trobar / ASCAP /admin. BMG.
Recorded and mixed 2018/2019 by John Finkbeiner at New + Improved, Oakland, California.
Mastered by Myles Boisen @ Headless Buddha Lab, Oakland.
Produced by Larry Ochs.
Cover art + design by Emilie Clark.
_______
Special thanks to Isabelle Sorrell for inspiring the anthem used in Arise the Poet. Thanks also to Steve Holtje at ESP, to Eric Moffat, Matt Campbell, Larry Blood, and to musician friends that have hooked up with the 2 of us in other bands - large and small - that inform the duo-music here: Glenn Spearman, Lisle Ellis, Scott Amendola and Rova co-conspirators Raskin, Ackley, and Adams.

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Larry Ochs

Ochs is primarily found in the worlds of “avant-garde jazz” or “improvised music,” composing music for bands such as Rova Sax 4, The Fictive Five, Kihnoua, Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core, Ochs-Robinson Duo. All-improv bands with musicians such as Nels Cline, Gerald Cleaver, Fred Frith, Darren Johnston, Mark Dresser, Vladimir Tarasov, Rodrigo Amado, Peggy Lee, Miya Masaoka ... more

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