Celebrating the June 2021 release of their second and definitive duo recording on ESP-Disk, A Civil Right, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Larry Ochs – Don Robinson Duo perform pieces influenced greatly by the heady traditions of free jazz and collective improvisation. A lot has changed since 1962, when ESP produced the first USA release by Albert Ayler, but a lot - and we believe too much - remains virtually the same. So our music, while influenced by many musical innovations and sociological developments that have become part of the firmament over the past 50+ years, still celebrates and revels in the spirit of sixties free jazz.
From The Wire (Bill Meyer, 2021): “Even at its most restrained, their playing is forcefully muscular, with Ochs leveraging emotional impact from the grit in his tone on both tenor and sopranino, and Robinson operating with the economy of a long distance runner. “
Ochs is a founding member of the great Rova Saxophone Quartet, one of the Bay Area’s avant-garde treasures since 1978. Robinson – “a percussive dervish,” according to Coda – was the drummer of choice for ROVA’s revivification of John Coltrane’s Ascension. The East Bay Express has said of the saxophonist’s sound: “Ochs’ full-bodied tenor is out of the John Coltrane/Albert Ayler ‘free’ tradition: forceful, passionate… talking-in-tongues,” while the Chicago Reader said about the drummer and his relationship with Ochs: “Robinson’s playing has heft and he covers lots of ground – he can maintain a feeling of order while playing meter-less rhythms or transform the pulse of jagged post-bop until it’s almost abstract. He’s a good match for Ochs, and over the decades the two of them have developed a fine-tuned rapport.”
Although Ochs and Robinson have collaborated in various groups for 3 decades now, their duo is a more recent phenomenon, having developed over the past 10 years. Ochs says: “Our playing together has evolved 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 after a long stretch of shows together. Our set will include new, original material, with some high-energy playing and things that are more spatial, as well as some homages to more popular music. In a sparse 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, Miya Masaoka, Nels Cline, John Zorn, 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 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.
Don Robinson, drums:
Donald Robinson honed his physical technique and musical concept in the 1970’s in Paris, studying with bebop pioneer Kenny Clarke and various notable avant-garde players. A long-time student of Chuck Brown, Robinson added to his mental acuity performing with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Glenn Spearman, Lisle Ellis, and Rova Sax Quartet. He is a stalwart of the San Francisco Bay Area avant-garde jazz scene, playing and recording with many of the Bay 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, Biggi Vinkeloe 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.
Larry Ochs, saxophones:
In his forty-plus years in Rova Saxophone Quartet, Larry Ochs has created roughly two dozen compositions for saxophone quartet as well as other pieces for Rova in extended ensembles, many of which are recorded, and some of which were commissioned by Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation and Meet the Composer. He has been acting executive director of Rova:Arts since 1987. In addition Ochs currently composes for and leads The Fictive Five (with Nate Wooley, Harris Eisenstadt, Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper) and Kihnoua with vocalist Dohee Lee, Scott Amendola and special guests [the Sybil’s Whisper, 2012 CD]). He is performing in collective bands: Jones Jones (with Mark Dresser and Vladimir Tarasov), Every Winter Trio (with Nels Cline and Gerald Cleaver), Spectral (with Darren Johnston and Dave Rempis), Larry Ochs-Aram Shelton Quartet (with Aram Shelton, Kjell Nordeson and Scott Walton) and Maybe Monday (with Miya Masaoka and Fred Frith). www.ochs.cc.
Ochs and Robinson performance history together includes:
1991 to 1998 in The Glenn Spearman Double Trio.
1994 to 2002, What We Live, a trio - initated by bassist Lisle Ellis - that recorded many CDs and added incredible guests for special concerts/recordings including Dave Douglas, Wadada Leo Smith, Nels Cline, John Zorn, Miya Masaoka, Saadet Turkoz and Chris Brown, among others.
2000 to 2010 - Robinson was part of the Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core featuring drummer Scott Amendola, as well as Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura from 2007 - 2010.
2003, 2005 – Robinson performed in Rova’s first two iterations of Electric Ascension.
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.