Tenor saxophonist and composer Larry Ochs is a founding member of Bay Area saxophone quartet ROVA (he's the "O"), virtually an institution in the frequently overlapping international scenes of avant-garde jazz, improvised music, and contemporary notated composition (the latter being what some folks these days refer to as "classical" music).
This time out, Ochs' Core, drummers Donald Robinson and Scott Amendola, is augmented by the married Japanese duo of Satoko Fujii (piano, synthesizer) and Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), both established leaders in the "out" music scenes of Tokyo and New York City. Together, this trio-plus-duo makes beautifully stormy, turbulent music together. Ochs' full-bodied tenor is out of the John Coltrane/Albert Ayler "free" tradition: forceful, passionate, frequently overblown (distorted), ecstatic, and talking-in-tongues. Fujii plays with a spiky, driven lyricism descended from McCoy Tyner and Don Pullen, and Tamura frequently employs extended techniques (above and beyond the "normal" range of the trumpet). The oddly titled "Abstraction Rising" features some bristling, melancholy free-bop (à la Andrew Hill), with Ochs nodding towards the blues (à la Sam Rivers) and Tamura paying subtle tribute to Freddie Hubbard. (While thought of primarily as a mainstream player, the late Hubbard played on some avant touchstones, such as Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz and Hill's Point of Departure.) The tour de force "Across From Over" finds the drummers laying down a marchlike groove over which Ochs (obliquely) struts, investing his skronk with a bit of New Orleans flair, until Tamura enters, whose cries evoke Don Cherry and Fujii makes like John Medeski on Mars before launching shards of synthesizer freak-out.
Occasionally Stone Shift is a wee bit too abstract (the title track), but the exhilarating fire and riveting conviction throughout is hard to beat. (Rogue Art)