Jul 16, 2021


 Larry Ochs - Don Robinson Duo: A CIVIL RIGHT

Now available at the  OCHS BandCamp site or from ESP itself

"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 @ Marlbank.net - July 7, 2021

Five sax - drum 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 cultural 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

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.

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.