The Fictive Five - Anything Is Possible

Label: Clean Feed, 2019

Personnel – Larry Ochs: tenor saxophone, sopranino; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Ken Filiano: bass, effects; Pascal Niggenkemper: bass, effects; Harris Eisenstadt: drums.


Led by saxophonist Larry Ochs, The Fictive Five is a quintet of fearless improvisers whose sophomore album is now out on the Clean Feed imprint (their debut was released in 2015 on Tzadik Records). Two bassists - Ken Filiano and Pascal Niggenkemper - are put side by side in an unpredictable rhythm section that also includes proficient drummer Harris Eisenstadt. Ochs shares the frontline with trumpeter Nate Wooley and their horn punctuations and creative fire are usually a focus of instability within the cinematic narratives. Thus, the title Anything Is Possible is appropriate to describe this new sonic adventure.

Three of the five pieces on the album are dedicated to illustrious personalities from cinema and music. Three is also the number of Ochs compositions, with the remaining two being credited to the collective.

The opener, “Immediate Human Response”, is for the filmmaker Spike Lee. Ochs enters straightforward and vigorous with the bassists providing tensile flexibility, whether by bowing or plucking their instruments. The subversive percussion brings in a lot of odd noises and the quieter passages are no less ominous or tense. It’s not uncommon to hear water and buzzing sounds, chamber cadences that lead to irregular stomps and arco bass drones, and harsh melodic turmoils with no fixed destination.

The two bassists are in evidence on Ochs’ 19-minute “The Others Dream”, infusing dark orchestral colors so as to stir dynamics. Low-pitched drones affected by electronics and African-like pulses support the random trajectories of the horn players, who dramatically improve the rhythm with contrapuntal actions. More cerebral, Wooley balances the gutty fervor expressed by Ochs, who often growls in fury.

Short in duration, “And The Door Blows Open” is dedicated to the late pianist Cecil Taylor. Built like a lament, this collective improvisation gradually adds layers but opens with the breathy tones of Ochs’ tenor.

Another 19-minute piece with a title to be taken seriously, “With Liberties And Latitude For All” is a highlight. Dedicated to experimental film director Warren Sonbert and grounded in an intelligible narrative context, the tune grants enthralling counterpoint between sax and trumpet, an array of percussive configurations coordinated with a timbral hook, and even a jazzy passage composed of jittery brushwork, trumpet digresses, and an eccentric coexistence of grinding bowed bass and swinging pizzicato.

Anything Is Possible doesn’t surpass its predecessor, but this punchy improvised music still presents vast sonic options for whoever wants a wild ride.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
02 - The Others Dream ► 03 - And The Door Blows Open ► 04 - With Liberties And Latitude For All