Ochs-Robinson Duo - A Civil Right [ESP Disk - 2021]
A Civil Right is a wonderfully clean, largely evenly spaced, and perfectly defined example of the free-jazz form. Both players here very much deserved the mantle of long-time jazz legends, Sax player Larry Och’s has been playing since the late ’70s, and drummer Donald Robinson career kicked off in the early 70’s- so both are highly skilled and versatile players, and boy does it show on this recent five-track album!.
The release appears on legendary NYC jazz label ESP Disk- coming as either a digital download or CD- I’m reviewing the latter. The CD comes presented in a four-panel digipak- this features on its front cover a detailed tie-dyed / ink wash artwork, and similar art is repeated on the back and under the CD itself.Roger Batty
The five tracks here were apparently honed and defined over many years from multiple free and structured improvisations, as well more composed & rehearsed songwriting. And you can most certainly hear that as the pairs interplays and interactions on a dime- yet nothing ever feels too sleek or smooth, with fire in both players when it needs to be, but also a fair bit of melody, flare, and atmosphere too.
We open with the just over twelve and a half minutes of “Arise The Poet”. This starts out with a blend of wonderful bounding ‘n’ crashing drums, and complex honking ‘n’ baying sax patterns- which flit between the harmonic and non-harmonic. As we move on the pair sail up some wonderful joint crescendos, but equally pare back for their own moments of glory, including some breath-taking working through the kit runs from Robinson. In the latter half, we move into a more set pulsing-to-jiving drum rhythm- with Och sax shifting between playful bobbing ‘n’ darting, and wailing bayed ‘n’ richly forceful.
By track three we’ve come to the albums title track, and this is the shortest track here at just over the five and a half minutes mark. We find slow and steady tick-tocking drums, met by compressed and controlled Sax playing that move between sudden high and waving runs, wayward honks and throaty-to-scuttling bays. A wonderful excise in controlled and tamed passion.
Track four finds “The Other Dream” both players back to their flowing, shifting, and at points fired-up form. As the just over thirteen-minute track moves between blends of bound drums and smoked blues honks, onto reedy blows meets snapping cymbal hits and rolling bashes. Onto trumpeting reels and flirts joined smash and crashing kit descends, though snaping ‘n’ bounding drum patterns met by slightly eastern promise edged wailing honks ‘n’ cascading bays.
A Civil Right is a wonderfully dramatic and well defined free jazz record- with both players on-point performances working together to create a rather spell-binding and easily replay-able record, which I’ve found myself enjoying a lot over the last month or so.