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Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core: The Neon Truth

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Intentions don’t always dictate results, and in fact many great works have been the result of mistake or happenstance. So while it’s interesting to note what saxophonist Larry Ochs had wanted his Sax & Drumming Core to be, it doesn’t have a lot to do with the successes of their first record.

In the liner notes to The Neon Truth (recorded in August of 2000, and released in Europe in 2002, only recently available in the US), Ochs says that he wanted his two-drummer trio to reflect the African and Asian traditions of vocalists who “belt out their own forms of the blues with accompaniment from a single or small group of hand drummer,” and to make a CD that “told a story from beginning to end.”

What he came up with isn’t so remarkable, or at least as referential, as that, but it is a good record by a strong improvising trio. He also writes that he wanted to create a “more democratic situation than one where the saxophone leads and the drummer accompanies,” a goal that he meets spot on.

For the project, Ochs recruited two San Francisco drummers with whom he’d worked before. Scott Amendola had worked with Rova (the saxophone quartet that comprises Ochs’ primary outfit) on a large-band piece he composed. Donald Robinson is the drummer in the trio What We Live, in which Ochs also plays. The album shows them to be very much a trio, rotating the role of “leader” between and within the eight pieces. It makes for an unusual setting: obviously percussion heavy, but not quite a drum choir, and at times (especially on the excellent “Red Shift”) roomier than the average horn-led session. Ultimately it’s three inventive musicians pushing each other without stepping on each other.


Track Listing: 1. Wrong Right Wrong - 6:31 2. The Neon Truth - 4:20 3. Give Me - 2:45 4. Finn Crosses Mars - 11:49 5. Xanic Rides Again - 6:44 6. And Nothing But... - 2:30 7. Red Shift - 14:01 8. Blues Keep Calling - 1:51

Personnel: Larry Ochs - Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax; Scott Amendola - Drums; Donald Robinson - Drums.

Title: The Neon Truth | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Black Saint

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