Over a decade in existence and the free jazz trio Jones Jones has just dropped its third album. That's not exactly prolific, but may well be an accurate reflection of the challenge implicit in bringing together colleagues separated by the 5795 miles between reedman Larry Ochs
and bassist Mark Dresser
in California, and percussionist Vladimir Tarasov
in Lithuania. But the wait has been worth it with A Jones In Time Saves Nine
ranking as their finest work so far, surpassing their previously most widely-distributed session Moscow Improvisations
(Not Two, 2016) in emotional intensity and focus.
Each of the mature talents involved boasts an impressive history. Dresser was the bassist in Anthony Braxton
's classic 1990s quartet, while Tarasov was part of the Ganelin Trio
, hailed as "arguably the world's greatest free jazz ensemble" in their 1980s heyday. Ochs has been one quarter of the Rova Saxophone Quartet
since its inception in 1977. But as noteworthy as their illustrious track records is the fact that they still nurture an adventurous streak. All the nous derived from these various groundbreaking escapades finds its expression in their work together.
Released as an LP with three digital bonus cuts, the seven off-the-cuff exchanges, selected from a pair of 2016 live dates in California, portray a hugely empathetic approach. As well as the expected instrumental prowess, their progress is distinguished by close listening which births stimulating juxtapositions and contrasts. Tarasov's role is particularly important. He does just what's needed without a desire to grandstand. His taut percussive patterns add to the richness but not the density, maintaining a transparent and open feel which allows Dresser and Ochs to shine.
Indeed, the disc features some of the saxophonist's most direct playing on record, powerful and impassioned but also displaying a rare sensitivity. On an excellent first side, the stop-start "A Fistful Of Jones" showcases Ochs' blistering tenor, his choked wails punctuated by visceral howls. Next up "Twelve Angry Jones" pitches locomotive bass and drums against measured sopranino saxophone sighs and ululations.
The excitement continues on the flip side, as "The Jones Who Knew Too Much" begins with a spacious colloquy of rattles, patter, mutters and cries, while "Three Jones Outside Ebbing, Missouri" lights a slow-burning fuse in which Dresser's increasingly animated arco and Ochs' vocalized tenor interjections jostle over Tarasov's distant rumble.
Picking the tracks for the vinyl must have been a tough call as the three digital-only numbers are of no less quality. Spare interplay characterizes "Night Of The Living Jones" which begins with as much silence as sound, while "The Jones Who Never Was" is the odd man out in its gradually accumulating momentum. Finally the gut-wrenching tenor shrieks of "Gone With The Jones" finish the program as it started, with tremendous music which transcends the geographical barriers.