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Monday, February 18, 2008

Larry Ochs/Joan Jeanrenaud/Mija Masaoka - Fly Fly Fly (Intakt, 2002) *****

In preparation of a piece I'm writing on jazz cello, here is one of my favorites, which demonstrates what free jazz can really mean : freedom in the development of improvizations, which could go in any direction, but which, in the hands of true masters with good ears and a common vision can lead to something extraordinary. In four lengthy pieces, saxophonist Larry Ochs, cello-player Joan Jeanrenaud and koto-player Mija Masaoka create a strange and compelling musical environment. All three players use the possibilities of their instruments to the extreme, ranging from virtuosity in the most traditional uses to the most uncanny extended techniques, which are fully functional in creating tension, relief, depth and variation. Ochs did not actually compose the music, he just used pictograms as a structural element to indicate changes in the flow of each piece, anchorpoints if you want. The result is stunning. All three musicians can play deeply emotionally and beautifully in the traditional sense, alternated with more exploratory efforts, sometimes creating sounds close to silence or evoking nature (listen to Jeanrenaud's bird sounds or Masaoka's streaming mountain stream on the first track). And despite the length of the tracks, you still have the feeling that each note is carefully positioned, not one is out of place, and there is not one too many to create the overall effect of lightness and wonder. In order to create this effect, Ochs does a tremendous effort in playing softly, toning down the volume and pitch of his tenor and sopranino to the level of the cello and even the more voiceless koto. Beauty, musicianship, creativity, adventure and a great listening experience. In sum, a wonderful album.