Co-led by saxophonists from different generations, this West Coast quartet is a kinetic meeting of four diverse and internationally recognized musical talents who have long-time and recent associations with the likes of ROVA, John Zorn, Nels Cline, Gerald Cleaver, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Mats Gustafsson, Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser, Vinny Golia and Fred Frith.
Larry Ochs — Aram Shelton Quartet features Larry Ochs and Aram Shelton on saxophones, Scott Walton on bass, and the Swedish percussionist Kjell Nordeson. Co-led by two like-minded saxophonists from different generations, this USA quartet is a kinetic meeting of four diverse & internationally recognized musical talents who have longtime associations with the likes of ROVA, John Zorn, Nels Cline, Wadada Leo Smith, Gerald Cleaver, Fred Frith, Mats Gustaffson, Peter Brotzmann, and locally with sfSound, Oakland Active Orchestra, Darren Johnston, Scott Amendola and others. Ochs and Shelton compose for the group with an ear towards open-ended improvisations that highlight each player’s distinct musical voice and the group aesthetic.
A new CD was released on Clean Feed Recordings in July, 2020. Created in two recording sessions spaced almost exactly five years apart, Continental Drift encompasses a wide range of styles and deep-felt emotion. The musicians leave it all on the floor here through inspired and unique performances. (A November 2020 European tour featuring compositions from this CD was postponed to 2021, and now has been postponed again to Nov. 2022.)
Here is a review of the CD that tells you a lot about the band as well:
Larry Ochs / Aram Shelton Quartet — Continental Drift (Clean Feed)
Tenor / sopranino saxophonist Larry Ochs has been playing jazz, free improvisation and whatever you choose to call all the many things that the ROVA Saxophone Quartet plays since the 1970s, which is when alto saxophonist Aram Shelton was born. While improvisation is an integral element of his practice, it often arises from rigorously composed frameworks. Before moving to Ochs’ neck of the woods in 2005, Shelton was part of the robust Chicago scene, where his project included playing tune-oriented music indebted to Ornette Coleman’s conception of free jazz in the trio Dragons 1976 and electro-acoustic improvisation in the excellent duo, Grey Ghost. Shelton also contributed to Fast Citizens, a collective that included Keefe Jackson, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Tim Daisy, and contributed appositely to his peers’ various projects. While they varied in kind and character, they shared a collegial egalitarianism particular to the Chicago community.
Both saxophonists contribute compositions to the Larry Ochs / Aram Shelton Quartet. The group’s other members don’t, but they’re both veterans whose acumen contributes to this CD’s success. Mark Dresser is a virtuoso bassist, and drummer Kjell Nordeson was part of the Scandinavian contingent whose frequent visits shook things up in Chicago just before Shelton got there. While both are inspiring improvisers, they also appreciate the discipline of giving a composition or arrangement what it needs. They’re equally at home realizing the fleet, swinging groove of Shelton’s “Switch” or the carefully orchestrated shifts between staggering and charging rhythmic attacks on Ochs’ “Slat.” Their accompaniment often commands attention by pushing against a tune’s grain in ways that makes you notice and appreciate whatever they’re pushing against.
But if their contributions contribute immeasurably to the music’s success, they also figure in its scarcity. Both Dresser and Nordeson are educators as well as working musicians, They teach in San Diego. Most of Continental Drift was recorded in 2013, but after Ochs concluded that album’s final piece, “The Others Dream,” needed re-recording, it proved nigh on impossible to get everyone back into the studio for another go before Shelton left town for Europe in 2016. So that and the title track were finally recorded in 2018 when he came back for a brief visit, with Scott Walton on bass.
Whatever Ochs found wrong with the original version of “The Others Dream,” the reconstituted quartet certainly got things right in the end. The piece is nearly 20 minutes long, and it doesn’t spend much time revisiting known territory, but the quartet never loses track of its pace or the solemnity that rests at the foundation of each player’s impassioned solo turns. While Walton does yeoman’s work by maintaining the music’s center of gravity, Nordeson is marvelous, simultaneously stoking and commenting upon the saxophonists’ elongated orations. If geography, politics or the pandemic keep the quartet from reuniting, this disc shows exactly why it needed to be together in the first place.
Bill Meyer (in “Dusted” 10-2020)
As a member of Rova Saxophone Quartet since 1978, LARRY OCHS has made more than two-dozen CDs and 40 tours to Europe and Japan, including tours to the USSR in 1983 and 1989. He has recorded dozens of CDs with his other touring bands including the bands Maybe Monday with Fred Frith and Miya Masaoka; Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core, which toured Europe in 2002 – 2009, releasing five CDs between 2000 and 2017; Kihnoua, featuring Korean singer Dohee Lee, Scott Amendola and Wilbert de Joode; and Ochs-Robinson Duo (2013- present).
Most recent bands: Spectral: a trio of Dave Rempis- Darren Johnston-Larry Ochs; The Fictive Five. (with Nate Wooley, Fen Filiano, Pascal Niggenkemper and Harris Eisenstadt); Cleaver-Cline-Ochs (Gerald Cleaver, Nels Cline, Ochs); Jones Jones: Mark Dresser, Vladimir Tarasov, Ochs. ... He has also performed with Kronos Quartet, John Zorn, Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, John Lindberg, Satoko Fujii, Scott Amendola, Marilyn Crispell, Andrew Cyrille, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Henry Kaiser, Wadada Leo Smith, Peggy Lee, and many others. www.ochs.cc
ARAM SHELTON is an avant jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, improviser and composer. Originally from southeast Florida, Shelton lived in Chicago from 1999 to 2005, in San Francisco from 2005 – 2015, and has since relocated to the EU, currenty residing in Budapest. He stays connected to Chicago through his Chicago Quartet, the Fast Citizens (Delmark), and Jason Adasiewicz' Rolldown (Cuneiform). His writing and playing is grounded in and influenced by the rich history of avant-jazz and free improvisation in America and Europe since the 1950s and has been documented through more than a dozen albums since 2003. In addition to the Oakland & Chicago based groups, Shelton has recently performed in California, New York and Berlin with the likes of Larry Ochs, Tony Buck, Magda Mayas, James Fei, Fred Frith, Josh Berman, Matt Bauder, Jason Ajemian, Tomas Fujiwara, Marco Eneidi, Josh Sinton, Mary Halvorson, Weasel Walter, Gino Robair, Jacob Wick, and Scott Looney. In the past he has been fortunate to perform with a wide variety of talented musicians including Ken Vandermark, Audrey Chen, Henry Grimes, Daniel Carter, Dave Rempis, Nate Wooley, Liz Albee, Rob Mazurek, Jeff Parker, Frank Gratkowski, Josh Abrams, Harris Eisenstadt, Jeb Bishop. He has performed in Europe, Canada and the United States including appearances at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Suoni per il Popolo Festival in Montreal, and the Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival. "As an improviser, he possesses the mind of a composer, such is the consideration he puts into his work" - All About Jazz // "Shelton plays alto with a singing sound and a wonderful way of developing juicy phrases into full-blown solos." - John Litweiler http://www.aramshelton.com
KJELL NORDESON is a Swedish musician residing in California. As a percussionist and drummer he has toured and played around 1200 concerts in altogether twenty-six different countries within the last twenty years. He is featured on over fifty CDs. He has worked together with musicians such as (long time collaborator) Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann, Barry Guy, Stefano Scodanibbio, Joe Morris, William Parker, Mark Dresser, Larry Ochs, Sten Sandell and many others. Kjell participated in Derek Bailey’s Company Week in London, 1990. Kjell has worked as musician and composer in numerous theatre and contemporary dance performances at Sweden’s Dramaten (Royal Dramatic Theater), Riksteatern (National Theater), Stockholm's Stadsteater (City Theater), and The Orion Theater in Stockholm.
SCOTT WALTON is a bassist and pianist whose music negotiates the terrain between jazz, free improvisation, and the classical avant-garde. He has performed in festivals and venues throughout North America and Europe in a host of collaborative contexts, and has recorded with Alex Cline, Vinny Golia, Myra Melford, Steve Adams, Nels Cline, Tim Perkis, Michael Vllatkovich, Gilbert Isbin, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, and Bobby Bradford, among many others. He currently resides in south of France.