Saxist Larry Ochs crafts the opening passage of Stone Shift with the raspy tonality of his tenor. Ochs is saying to his Drumming Core: “This is the feeling I want to convey.” His set-up works. Featuring drummers Donald Robinson and Scott Amendola, keyboardist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, Ochs’ group structures an extraordinary musical topography.
The drumming does become the ‘core’ for the musical evolution and patently substantiates the weight of expressiveness from the other instruments. A crashing sibilance of the cymbals, a simple rhythmic tapping on their edges or centers, the rumbling of the toms or the endless combinations thereof gives freedom to the sax, trumpet and keyboards to intensify their rich convolutions.
The interaction of the players could not be tighter. The quintet succeeds in making the first track, “Across From Over,” an open stage on which the musicians can either stomp or fly. Sax and trumpet, driven by impenetrable drumming pulsations, bring the music to places ripe with transition. The exaggerated reediness of the sax, the tight-lipped muted-ness of the trumpet converse as the drumming becomes increasingly percussive or the piano/synthesizer reverberates to impose an atmospheric control. Momentary rest begins “Abstraction Rising” and intercedes in the closing moments of “Stone Shift.” Sometimes highlighted with brief sax-trumpet synchronies or exquisite piano phrasings, crescendos of sax brashness and unforgiving furious textures state the essence of this improvisational adventure.
Cascades of metamorphosing planes intersect, cut through space, grab hold of, dig into or skip over the ground. Multiplicities of multi-phonic sonic waves travel through each lengthy track. Each instrument has its time to flourish and speak in its own pure tone, either in sequence as in “Finn Veers for Venus,” or through such webbed interconnection with the other instruments that the music is invariably one cohesive, indivisible stream.