Guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and saxophonist Larry Ochs are three experimental icons, individually and collectively drawing upon the outer limits of free jazz, structured improvisation and bicoastal noise punk.
The Trio actually began as a duo of Ochs and Cleaver, premiering at Ochs’ week of concerts at The Stone in New York in September 2014. Ochs was so taken by the musical possibilities that this duo opened up that night that he vowed to play at least one concert a year with Mr. Cleaver, whenever Ochs passed through NY. Cline and Ochs, both living in California, had known each other for decades, and Cline had been featured since 2003 in Rova”s Electric Ascension bands. On one of Nels’ visits to Ochs’ home base of Berkeley, the two had had a conversation that ended with a run-down of some upcoming concerts. Ochs mentioned an upcoming duo concert with Cleaver and raved about the first one. Nels took a look at his calendar and asked how Ochs would feel if he joined the duo, as he too had always wanted to play with Cleaver. As a result, the trio was born in Brooklyn in May 2015. The music that night was exciting; it hinted at all kinds of possibilities and was a fun challenge. Ochs determined that night to keep this trio purely for pleasure, to only play concerts that were easy to book, where the promoter was genuinely excited right from the downbeat. The trio has since performed 6 concerts in the northeast USA, including sets where the trio expanded to a quartet adding Marshall Allen (in Philadelphia), and (in Baltimore) to a sextet with the additions of Michael Formanek, Hank Roberts and Ches Smith. The three look forward to performing annually in the USA when all are available at the same time. Plans for a December 2017 5-concert tour are now in the works.
“The guitarist Nels Cline, the saxophonist Larry Ochs and the drummer Gerald Cleaver share a feeling for exploratory narrative and bristling texture.” (NY Times, May 2015)
Jazzmaster assassin NELS CLINE might be as close as the modern avant-garde gets to a household name. Before joining indie rock institution Wilco in 2004, Cline divided his energy between improvised contexts alongside Julius Hemphill, Vinny Golia, and brother Alex, and more song-oriented settings like Carla Bozulich’s alt-country outfit Geraldine Fibbers and Mike Watt’s Crew of the Flying Saucer. Cline continues to occupy the narrow space between pure sound and song, as exemplified by his longstanding Singers trio with drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Trevor Dunn, and his recent duo with guitar prodigy Julian Lage.
In his own words, Michigan-bred, New York-based GERALD CLEAVER’s multifaceted approach to the drum set balances “static sound and extreme dynamics, melodicism within heavy texture, deep-rooted groove, unchained abandon, and the power and revelation of recurring form.” Cleaver made a name for himself through enduring partnerships with Vision Fest regulars like Roscoe Mitchell and Charles Gayle, but lately critics have been abuzz about his new musique concrète-cum-free rock quintet Black Host with Darius Jones, Cooper-Moore, Brandon Seabrook, and Pascal Niggenkemper. Pitchfork’s Hank Shteamer described 2013’s Life in the Sugar Candle Mines as, “a well-tended hot-house: feverish and bracingly weird, yet also purposeful and shrewdly strategic.”
LARRY OCHS is best known as a founder of the Rova Sax Quartet, a San Francisco institution that pioneered the application of improvisational strategies within the context of contemporary composition, beginning in the late 1970s and continuing right up to the present day: 40 years old in 2018. Equally inspired by modernist 20th century composition and the more worldly, abrasive strands of 60s free jazz, Rova and Ochs became widely celebrated for the lengths they would go to stretch the performance parameters of notated music through early collaborations with Henry Kaiser, Fred Frith, and John Zorn. Ochs connection with Cline began in the late 1990’s and culminated with the Celestial Septet, a septet comprised of both the Rova Sax Quartet and the Nels Cline Singers, with a fantastic CD release including a long, ecstatic Ochs composition and tours from 2009 – 2011. Ochs and Cleaver have performed off and on as a duo since 2013; a duo CD release (coming in 2018) – a beautiful , haunting set of music called “Songs of the Wild Cave” - will document their 2016 live recording made inside a secret cave in the Dordogne area of France; a cave that contains upwards of 150 Pleistocene-era paintings. It’s a unique recording in which the cave itself seriously influenced the music, becoming essentially the third member of a trio.