Oct 15, 2015

The Fictive Five recorded four Ochs’ compositions at Eastside Sound in New York this past December 2014. Details on this recording, including extensive notes not available on the actual CD, can be perused here under the Discography. The CD artwork is by Lyn Hejinian!  Available at Ochs“ Bandcamp site. Find that at Fictive Five page on this website.

Three early reviews follow:

By Stuart Broomer in NYC Jazz Record:

Larry Ochs may be best known as one-quarter of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, the Bay-area group, which, in its near-40 year history, has created large-scale works with composers as diverse as Terry Riley and Barry Guy. Ochs’ projects outside of ROVA have often been just as noteworthy. He first assembled The Fictive Five for a performance at his 2013 residency at The Stone and this recent recording testifies to the way the band’s strengths realize Ochs’ compositional methodology.

It’s a band of mostly younger New York musicians: trumpeter Nate Wooley, bassists Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper and drummer Harris Eisenstadt. A certain empathy is assured, with Wooley and Niggenkemper members of Eisenstadt’s Canada Day among other associations, but Ochs’ approach to organization supports and emphasizes the band’s creative strengths. Each of Ochs’ extended pieces makes extensive use of cues with some specified drones and occasional melodic figures, creating open- ended works playing to the band’s developed spontaneity and genuinely collective vision.

The compositions are fundamentally cinematic, each dedicated to a filmmaker and conceived as a kind of soundtrack, a sequence of shifting textures that might generate images rather than serve them. The opening “Similitude (for Wim Wenders)” moves from an opening unison cry and fragment of melody through segments highlighted by Wooley shifting from clarion call to wild sprays of particulate sound and Ochs using his sopranino to suggest a shofar. Ultimately, though, it’s a collective creation: the bassists often function orchestrally, with bowed chords and multiphonics dense with microtones and Eisenstadt constantly prodding and commenting on everything around him.

“By Any Other Name (for William Kentridge)” has a modal “Spanish tinge” (Jelly Roll Morton’s term), something that will link this to figures from Morton through Miles and Coltrane, but, like all the music here, it’s consistently fresh. It breaks new ground while working through the deep roots of Ochs’ conception, invoking Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler to achieve a depth of expression reaching back to New Orleans primitives (according to Jerome Rothenberg, “primitive means complex”) like the Eureka Brass Band.  (January 2016)


By Stef on freejazzblog.org

Larry Ochs - The Fictive Five (Tzadik, 2015) *****

I couldn't agree more with Larry Ochs' statement that "if you're looking to understand music, one is approaching it the wrong way", because it is the experience that counts, the total impact of the sound on your own biochemistry, including such bodily reactions as emotion, spiritual delight or goose bumps.

On this phenomenal album, the saxophonist assembled a New York band consisting of Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper on bass, Nate Wooley on trumpet and Harris Eisenstadt on drums, at the occasion of Ochs' curatorship at The Stone in New York, and these musicians, under Ochs' leadership create that unique experience that escapes rational disection and analysis.

The approach taken here is to create musical imagery, scenic moments that are partly composed, and mostly improvised, as if you can see the music in your mind's eye, and these are mostly abstract landscapes with changing and shifting horizons and colors, with a strong horizontal feeling of flux as the unpredictable sounds move the listener forward on this journey.

The album consists of four tracks, three of which are dedicated to visual artists - Wim Wenders, William Kentridge, Kelly Reichardt - in the same tradition as Steve Lacy, and it are the movies or visual installations by these artists that act as inspiration for the music, even if it is not made to accompany these movies.

One of the most striking features of the sound are the two basses, which lay a great sonic foundation for the music, not rhythmically, but in terms of the overall color of the pieces, acting in concert, or alternately, challenging each other or reinforcing the sound. Yet the entire band is stellar, five musicians who live in their most natural habitat of free flowing sounds, joining the short themes that pop up once in a while, then take off again on different paths but in the same direction.

It's the way I like music, beautifully free, sensitive and deep. (12-26-15)


By Craig Matsumoto on Memory Select  (https://wedgeradio.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/larry-ochs-fictive-five/ )

Larry Ochs — The Fictive Five (Tzadik, 2015)

The track “Similitude” opens with a blast from the two horns in Larry Ochs‘ latest group, the Fictive Five, and the steady blare continues for a good nine minutes. Nate Wooley blares out a trumpet solo made of crisp color and passionate growls, propelled by the rhythm section of drummer Harris Eisenstadt and two basses: Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper.

That track is the opener to another well-crafted improv album by Ochs, playing with a cast of veterans. But there’s another facet to The Fictive Five: The three major pieces that make up the album are dedicated to filmmakers — Wim Wenders, Kelly Reichardt, and installation artist William Kentridge.

As Ochs explains in his own liner notes (posted on his website and not available with the CD), the dedications reflect his feeling that there’s a visual aspect to the music, a movie of the mind. “I’m inspired to create musical landscapes that the listener when closing her eyes can then imagine her own visual images into, inspired by my music,” he writes. Like a choreographer working without music, Ochs is playing the role of soundtrack composer without a film.

While it’s common for an improvised piece to develop a particular character, what follows in The Fictive Five are well sculpted pieces that do indeed feel like narratives. Ochs is good at this; he’s frequently convened improv groups that work from compositions or skeletal structures that guide the impulses of the moment toward a common goal.

“Similitude” is forceful and bold, evoking a bright energy even as the piece moves to a slower phase in its second half — a bigger-picture view, like a camera panning back, but with plenty of action still playing out.

“By Any Other Name” opens with the groans of arco basses and dark, solemn horn statements. The mood brightens as the group works short passages of small subsets — and eventually, a kind of round-robin forms, with players hopping in and out to form duets and trios of intriguing small sounds. Trumpet and drums take a turn, then there’s a basses-and-drums moment with one bass bowed, the other plucked. It’s a musical game whose pieces fit into a macroscopic novel of music. A fiery group passage lands the piece back in the dark underworld where it began, a satisfying bit of symmetry.

“Translucent,” the Reichardt dedication, has a personality that stands out the most. It starts out choppy and high-strung, with tension surrounded by white space. Ochs abbreviates his sax phrases, a start-stop patter that plays well against Eisenstadt’s forceful snippets of drums. The sound softens as the basses and trumpet come in, building a brisk flow that’s not overwhelming. The final third of the 15-minute piece is a lingering denoument that patiently comes in for a landing. The sound softens as the basses and trumpet come in, building a brisk flow that’s not overwhelming. The final third of the 15-minute piece is a lingering denoument that patiently comes in for a landing.   (5 November15)