Saxophonist Larry Ochs channels the vibe of 60s free jazz while creating improvisations intended as aural filmmaking | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Saxophonist Larry Ochs channels the vibe of 60s free jazz while creating improvisations intended as aural filmmaking


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Veteran Bay Area reedist Larry Ochs has often worked within meticulously arranged compositional vehicles—in his pioneering saxophone quartet ROVA, high-flying improvisation is rigorously woven into the fabric of each piece. In recent years he’s increasingly spent time in looser, more spontaneous configurations where written material plays a less prominent role, but he continues to see composition as a crucial tool. In a short liner-note essay from his group Fictive Five’s eponymous 2015 debut album (released on Tzadik Records), he describes the music as “pieces that invite musicians in, even as they’re being pushed out and into the wild.” Fictive Five features a superb cast of players (most of them significantly younger than Ochs, who’s 68): trumpeter Nate Wooley, drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and bassists Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper. Together they inject a brooding energy and propulsive drive into four compositions by Ochs that recall the energy music of the 60s free-jazz movement. Following a practice employed by soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, Ochs dedicates three of the four pieces to figures who inspired him, film artists Wim Wenders, William Kentridge, and Kelly Reichardt, and he seeks to use sound to conjure their works’ narrative imagery. Even apart from that conceit, the music thrives, the twin bassists deftly pivoting between rhythmic and harmonic thickets to give the horn men generous space and ideas. The entire group sounds locked in, the members feeding off one another’s energy, anticipating phrases, and regularly pushing into fresh angles of attack. For its Chicago debut Fictive Five will be without Niggenkemper, but while that extra low end will be missed, I doubt the show will suffer.   v

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