May 18, 2024

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CD review: Larry Ochs & Aram Shelton Quartet – Continental Drift 2020: Video, CD cover

Tenor and sopranino saxophone composer and improviser Larry Ochs and Aram Shelton have joined forces to release a new collaborative offering, titled Continental Drift (Clean Feed).

For this release, Ochs, a Bay Area artist who’s been breaking new musical ground since the 1970s with Rova Saxophone Quartet, and Chicago-based composer and alto saxophonist Shelton go track for track leading drummer Kjell Nordeson and bass players Mark Dresser and Scott Walton—Nordeson plays on tracks 1-3 and 5-7, and Dresser hits on 4 and 8—through an undulating terrain of sax solos and drawn-out of rhythmic bouts, channeling tension, anxiety, and elation into a swirl of worldly skronk and nuanced free jazz.

As Ochs says in an email, “Everyone has the right to vote. And this time around everyone should be encouraged to do just that. The protests will be for naught if Moscow Mitch is still running the Senate in 2021.”

Can musicians of different generations be like-minded companions? Yes they can, at least when their names are Larry Ochs and Aram Shelton, the two composers and bandleaders of this quartet. As they themselves acknowledge, “Continental Drift” is a kinetic meeting of sorts, with compositions that are designed to inspire magnificent contributions from the entire team of players, both individually and collectively. The resulting music profits greatly from each members’ individual capacities and personalities. Ochs and Shelton’s musical backgrounds are both quite varied, evidenced by their own separate pasts exploring the worlds of jazz, contemporary classical, electro-acoustic and “other” music. More than that, both have been important voices of the San Francisco Bay Area improvised music scene: Ochs being a cutting-edge Bay Area improviser since the 1970’s, while Shelton, now living in Europe, is also known for his connections to the very different Chicago scene. Each plays in his own way, but they share the same principles and look for very similar results – together creating new music with a jazz approach and an avant-garde attitude, not alienated from history.


1. Another Night 8:02
2. Slat 8:43
3. Switch 6:04
4. Continental Drift 5:24
5. Anita 6:22
6. Strand 5:51
7. Test Shots 7:14
8. The Others Dream 19:24

Larry Ochs – tenor, sopranino saxophone
Aram Shelton – alto saxophone
Mark Dresser – double bass (1-3,5 -7)
Scott Walton – double bass (4, 8)
Kjell Nordeson – drums


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