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Quintet for a Day
What We Live
Quintet for a Day
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1

Built from the San Francisco area's thriving jazz community, What We Live is a collaborative trio that indulges a mix of free improvisation and structured avant-garde jazz. Bassist Lisle Ellis, saxophonist Lawrence Ochs (o...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: What We Live
Title: Quintet for a Day
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: New World Records
Original Release Date: 1/19/1999
Re-Release Date: 2/2/1999
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Style: Avant Garde & Free Jazz
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 093228055327

Built from the San Francisco area's thriving jazz community, What We Live is a collaborative trio that indulges a mix of free improvisation and structured avant-garde jazz. Bassist Lisle Ellis, saxophonist Lawrence Ochs (of Rova saxophone quartet fame), and Donald Robinson have seen two prior sessions released, the first tailored around their lean agility, and the second, What We Live Fo(u)r, using that leanness as the core for a variety of guests to expand the group into a quartet. With Quintet for a Day, they've expanded further, including free-jazz trumpet scion Wadada Leo Smith and Dave Douglas, one of the busiest and most creative trumpeters to have stepped forward in the 1990s. The quintet sculpts completely improvised music in discrete chunks lasting between one minute and a quarter hour. Smith and Douglas seem to guide the trio in busy antiphony, which is fascinating to hear. But Ochs, Robinson, and Ellis make a stunning inner circle to pop ideas off of, encasing the slippery harmonic formulations in a mixture of reedy texture and woodsy rhythm. What's striking at every listen here is how quickly the group pulls together their improvisations, building sturdy sonic units that have uncanny propulsion. --Andrew Bartlett

CD Reviews

What is not played is as important as what is played.
greg taylor | Portland, Oregon United States | 07/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What We Live is a cooperative Bay Area trio that was formed sometime in the early 90s. They wanted not only to explore their music as a free improv trio but to experiment with various guest artists as a quartet. In this they serve as an update on local mainstream piano trios that function as a rhthym section for various out of town guests.
The basic trio is formed of Larry Ochs (the O in ROVA), Lisle Ellis on the bass and Donald Robinson on the drums. The guest are Wadada Leo Smith (right channel) and Dave Douglas (left channel).
One of the great things about this group is that so many of them have worked on or within compositional structures for group improvs. Smith is one of the innovators within jazz on coming up with structures for free improvs so as to avoid the dreaded group skronks where everyone is blasting away. With these players, the idea of compositional structures has become so engrained that they do it on the fly. They are able to do this by deep listening to the others and by having an egoless approach to the creation. The point is never individual but group brilliance.
The result is music that is uncluttered and quite beautiful. Ochs has a wonderful tone (I would love to someday hear him play a ballad). Smith and Douglas fit in with each other and the others seamlessly as if they had been playing with them for years. (By the way, the most recent CD by this group is called Trumpets and features What We Live with Smith and Douglas seperately). Ellis sounds good whether bowing or strumming his bass. Robinson (who plays a similar role in the Bay Area as Hamid Drake does in New York) is the perfect drummer for this music- he can play very quietly and outline rhythmic ideas very succinctly.
By all means, listen to the sound bites. But with group improvs like this, the proof is in the overall piece and within the overall program. It is only by listening to an entire piece that you can judge whether the group was successful is creating a structure on which to base their improv. Was there a sense of something being developed and explored? Hard to tell in 20-30 secs. Was not just one piece successful but all of them and did they exhibit variety? Again hard to tell from sound bites. So listen to the sound bites if you want and hear what you think. But if you find intriguing the concept of the spontaneous creation and exploration of a piece by a group of musicians then simply take a chance on these guys. You may not like it (see the reviewer below) but taking a chance is frequently the only way to find new forms of musical beauty."