Upon a 2014 invitation from Toulouse producer Alban Jacques - and with substantial support from Michel Dorbon of Rogue Art - Larry Ochs and Gerald Cleaver ventured, in 2016, down 50 feet below the surface of the earth into a huge wild cave with very special acoustics, unique air quality, and pitch-black darkness; an engagement with the cave itself; it's centuries of history, its ambience, it's incredible atmosphere. Thus a once-in-a-lifetime trio of improvised music between 2 musicians and a spirits-filled cave. PLEASE NOTE: WE CANNOT PROVIDE DIGITAL DOWNLOAD from the Bandcamp website. (It's the law.)
REVIEWED at The Free Jazz Collective website (FreeJazzBlog.org)
LARRY OCHS & GERALD CLEAVER - THE CAVE (ROGUEART, 2018) ****½
Thursday, February 07, 2019
John Butcher has used special spaces to create the right resonance for his instrument, Jean-Luc Guionnet has used instruments to make people appreciate space better, and this album is possibly a mix of both. In 2014, Larry Ochs was invited to perform in a private cave in the south of France that contained some 150 prehistoric rock paintings. It took some time before the actual recording was made, and Ochs insisted to have a drummer with him, and Gerald Cleaver took up the challenge. You can read the full story of the performance in the cave on Larry Ochs' website, a story of uncertainty, challenges and doubts, but also of great music.
The question is: can you hear the cave? The question is how it affects two musicians to play music deep underground in a slippery and rocky and risky place, without audience, in a small circle of light surrounded by total darkness, no air movement, a constant cool temperature and a high level of moisture, and in the presence of the artifacts of people who visited this cave some 24,000 years ago, and created art. You hear it. You can hear the cave.
Ochs describes a difference with playing in a huge enclosed space such as a cathedral, which dominates and rules the sound and its resonance: "In the cave, the cave didn’t rule. It allowed us to take all kinds of improvised angles; it was rather an equal partner, and a generous one at that since, at least speaking for myself, the cave made everything easier, and I felt like everything sounded good, physically speaking, at least".
The album has eight tracks of free improvisation, with a sound that really goes deep, catching at the same time the existential 'angst' that our long-term ancestors must have felt in the place: fear, reverence, and the need for a collective sonic effort to express oneself and to control whatever powers rule the place: by praying and chanting and demonstrating submission, by asking for strength and health. Music as expression and as a sacrificial offering. The need for art in its most brutal, simple and authentic form. The cave participates, not only as a closed humid sound box that resonates, but also as a bridge, as a witness to something timeless, a kind of universal human sound. Ochs and Cleaver capture that brilliantly.
There are no pyrotechnics here, no fireworks, no artificial things. They respect the place, they use the space, they invite the cave to join. Some pieces are raw and violent, trance-inducing, painful yammerings or ferocious howls and thundering percussion. On one track, Cleaver uses only bells, because there is no need to be all over the place. The only thing is to be real, and to connect: the reeds and the drums, the musicians and the cave, the past and the present, the humans and the gods. Two instruments offering music with many dimensions.
A fascinating album. Don't miss it!
REVIEWED in DOWNBEAT:
By Alain Drouot | Published January 2019
"From the first cavernous notes played by saxophonist Larry Ochs, listeners should sense something unusual. The explanation is quite simple, though.
This duo with drummer Gerald Cleaver was recorded in a cave located in southwest France. And because improvised music relies heavily on tones, textures and pitches, performers are particularly sensitive to the environment in which they play and constantly on the lookout for new experiences. That’s likely why Ochs and Cleaver agreed to venture into the unknown with the unique Songs Of The Wild Cave.
Luckily, both saxophonist and drummer find their footing, progressively engaging with their surroundings and gaining in assurance. On the opener, the aptly titled “First Steps,” Ochs is in probing mode while Cleaver opts for percussion devices that he gently shakes. As confidence builds, the saxophonist grows impassioned and forceful, and the drummer introduces beautiful thunderous rolls. From then on, rhythm becomes Cleaver’s main focus, whether launching into weighty patterns, gallops or polyrhythmic figures. The rich backdrop he provides allows Ochs to be grounded solidly and to deliver one of his strongest performances in recent memory."
Includes unlimited streaming of SONGS OF THE WILD CAVE (11/2018)
via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
larry ochs: tenor and sopranino saxophones
gerald cleaver: drums, percussion
1. First Steps 9:05
2. Into The Air 5:16
3. Deeper 9:52
4. Down 5:46
5. Ringing It In 7:07
6. Rooted in Clay 8:59
7. Light From The Shadows 14:35
total time 60:51
released October 25, 2018
All pieces co-created by Gerald Cleaver (Gerald Cleaver Music / SESAC) and Larry Ochs (Trobar / ASCAP / admin. BMG)
Recorded by Vincent Mahey (assistant: Morgan Beaulieu) on October 1st 2016 in the southwest of France, in a wild cave in absolute silence and darkness.
Mixing: Vincent Mahey
Mastering: Raphaël Jonin
Liner notes: Ludovic Florin
Photograph: Alban Jacques
Cover design: Max Schoendorff
Cover realization: David Bourguignon
Executive producer: Michel Dorbon
Larry Ochs, Gerald Cleaver and RogueArt warmly thank Alban Jacques, Régis Vézian and Hélène Aziza who made this exceptional adventure possible.
LINER NOTES by Ludovic Florin (translation Nader Beizaei):
Something is happening. Or more accurately, something happened. Better yet: something is happening with what happened. To this double movement, this back-and-forth, this here recording bears witness.
In 2016, Gerald Cleaver and Larry Ochs are led, with the help of aficionados, to the depths of a cave frequented by men and women in the Paleolithic. Several engravings with mysterious meanings, various paintings saved from the years, signal their passage. This place resonates, not only in the acoustic sense, but in the (pre)historical and spiritual sense as well. As they descend, the air grows heavier, all the more thickened by a palpable past that it becomes poorer in oxygen. This place is to be respected and pledged allegiance to. Then comes the time to be adopted by it. They make a few sounds, tentatively at first. Then brief clapping duos. The cave speaks, answers them, they can feel it. A few hours away, in another cave, that they are getting ready to record, for the first time in the world, a free improvisation session in the heart of a prehistoric cave in the southwest of France does not cross their mind.
What Eurydice did they come looking for in this place? The answer, seemingly trite, could fit in a single word: interaction. Let us be clear, however: an unprecedented, unimaginable, and unimagined interaction. As the nerve center of free improvisation, interaction is not limited to the sole sound traces of the dialogue between musicians. Its action thrives on the place of production, the listeners in attendance (or absent, or virtual), takes into account the weather or the ambient sounds… This place instills, at best inspires. Some more than others, depending on their depth. From this point of view, the Gerald Cleaver-Larry Ochs duo in this cave consists indeed in a dialogue between three entities. First through silence. True silence. Not the artificial, absolute silence, but an inhabited silence, absent-present (magnificently rendered by Vincent Mahey’s remarkable recording). Seven times did the musicians probe its qualities, always with a different result: engraving the silence in its folds, piercing attempts, appearance-disappearance… The space of the place also conditions the musicians’ (re)actions. On their sounds, the cave reflects. They answer. It objects or responds. They converge. Thus the situation necessarily leads the musicians to play differently because they hear themselves differently. The density of the past matters as well. Fantasizing the music played in this place charged with millennia of history, attempting to comprehend its multiple manifestations, fuels Gerald Cleaver’ and Larry Ochs’s imagination as a result. Guttural sounds, rhythms that seem shamanic, trance effects, ingenuity found anew in the discovery of sound, etc.: all of them ancestral gestures and attitudes driven by an inaccessible yet immanent past. If a given time, long past, has consequences on musical creation in the moment, the absence of another type of time, that which passes with the tick of the clock, is also in full effect. It is a well-known experience: for man, to venture in the bowels of the earth entails experiencing time stretching, diluting even. There is therefore no point in projecting oneself towards a precise point in time. If the moment then increases in intensity, the passage of one’s life story in the flow of time loses its tragic. Much like this absence of “final cause”, the tensions generated in Gerald Cleaver’ and Larry Ochs’s improvisations therefore have value for and in themselves, and not with a view to resolving them.
With these two Orpheus, we do not descend to Hell, but ascend to Paradise. Produced outside of the world of the livings, the Eurydice they leave to us are the reflections of their quest: immemorial, timeless.
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