Here we go again. The fifth volume in the Out Trios series by American treasure imprint Atavistic pits saxophonist Larry Ochs of Rova against a pair of drummers: Scott Amendola and Donald Robinson. The former has played with everyone from Nels Cline and Charlie Hunter, to Carla Bozulich, John Zorn, and Madeleine Peyroux, as well as led his own fine ensembles. The latter has recorded his own date for CIMP and played with Idris Ackamoor, Raphe Malik, and Glenn Spearman, as well as with Ochs. Amendola is in the right channel, Robinson is in the left, and Ochs is everywhere. These eight pieces range from just under four minutes to just under ten, with most falling between the seven- and nine-minute range. But from the outset on "Up from Under," this set is different than all of the other volumes in the series. Robinson creates a blues shuffle, Amendola picks it apart and fills it with improvisation, and Ochs begins on tenor in deep blues phraseology before moving the entire proceeding into a kind of snake music on the soprano before returning to the tenor, to making it a blasting session. "Dragons Fly" begins with hand percussion and the tenor blowing all breathy and sweet some mysterious melodic line that shifts away from the power blowing at the end of the previous cut. There are drum kits here, but they tiptoe around one another as Ochs holds it all together on tenor keeping the tension in what amounts to an improvised skeletal ballad. Those seeking powerful out blowing have plenty to grab onto here, but the musicality of what's here is also plentiful as space, harmonic interplay, dynamic, and tension are part and parcel of every cut on the set -- check "Neonawi" or "And Nothing But..." for evidence of both. What makes this session is the intricate communication between the two drummers. There is an instinctive rather than formal arrangement between them, and no one does the same thing on the same cut. Time keeping shifts readily with time extension, soloing with vamping, counterpoint -- actual, not employed with sustained rhythmic engagement -- allowing Ochs to create his own bridge between the two with an intensely lyrical series of angles and shapes. Indeed, so many of these cuts feel like they are song based, except there are no choruses, no "middle eights" and no formal containment. But these pieces do offer narrative and circular rhythmic engagement as well. Evidence of this is heard in the amazing "Poporfa," which sounds like a dialogue between Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins (with Ayler's tone, of course), playing with a pair of kitmen who understand both march and free expression as part of the "structural" proceeding (and Ochs quotes Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun" in a quick passage for grins!). This is one of the finer volumes in the series, and gives a snapshot of free jazz as something that has plenty of life left in it. It's passionate, breathy, dramatic, taut, and warm.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek