Rova Saxophone Quartet
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The white San Francisco-based Rova Saxophone Quartet was the alternative, experimental alter-ego of the more famous World Saxophone Quartet. Formed in 1977 by Jon Raskin (1954), Larry Ochs (1949), Andrew Voigt and Bruce Ackley, on respectively baritone, tenor, alto and soprano saxophone it straddled the border between free jazz and classical music of the 20th century. Raskin had already founded several multimedia projects and worked with composer John Adams. Their first concert became also their first album, Cinema Rovate' (august 1978), highlighted by Raskin's chaotic and cacophonous 21-minute Ride Upon the Belly of the Waters After The Bay (december 1978) with Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo, the noise strategy of the group was perfected on The Removal of Secrecy (february 1979), particularly Ochs' 19-minute That's How Strong. There was method in their madness, but it was not easily detected within the dense structures of their scores. After Daredevils (february 1979) with guitarist Henry Kaiser, and the transitional This This This This (august 1979), with Raskin's eleven-minute Flamingo Horizons, Invisible Frames (october 1981) boasted another peak of their expressionist art, Voigt's 22-minute Narrow Are the Vessels. Ochs' 19-minute Paint Another Take of the Shootpop, off As Was (april 1981), was dedicated to both classical composer Olivier Messiaen and soul vocalist Otis Redding. Rova's style was becoming more accessible while still being abstract, absurd and atonal. After the live double-LP Saxophone Diplomacy (june 1983), with a 24-minute Detente or Detroit, and the Steve Lacy tribute of Favorite Street (november 1983), the Rova Saxophone Quartet sculpted the titanic jams of Crowd (june 1985), such as the 19-minute The Crowd, Ochs' 29-minute Knife In the Times and Raskin's 16-minute Terrains. After the relatively straightforward Beat Kennel (april 1987), and the live The Aggregate (july 1988) with fifth saxophonist Anthony Braxton, Voigt left Rova and was replaced by Steve Adams for Long on Logic (january 1990).

In 1986, Ochs had formed the Group Room, a trio of saxophone, piano and electronics. In 1990 he and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz formed the International Creative Music Orchestra.

After Electric Rags II (september 1989) with electronic musician Alvin Curran, Rova's recordings became more predictable and focused on live performances: This Time We Are Both (november 1989), with a 26-minute The Unquestioned Answer, Morphological Echo (december 1989), From the Bureau of Both (september 1992), with the 18-minute The Floater.

They also recorded Terry Riley's Chanting the Light of Foresight (july 1993).

Pipe Dreams (january 1994) was credited to Figure 8: the Rova Saxophone Quartet plus saxophonists Tim Berne, Vinny Golia, Glenn Spearman and Dave Barrett.

Ochs also composed chamber music for ensemble: The Secret Magritte (composed in 1993, recorded in june 1995), Pleistocene (1997) and Certain Space (2001). Och's sax-bass-drums trio What We Live, formed in 1994, recorded Never Was (july 1996), Quintet for a Day (april 1998), Trumpets (november 1996), etc. The trio Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core (with two drummers), formed in 2000, debuted with The Neon Truth (august 2000).

Bingo (april 1996) was mostly devoted to Barry Guy's Witch Gong Game and especially Lindsay Cooper's A Face in the Crowd.

The Mirror World (june 2005), inspired by a Stan Brakhage film, contains Hand for Joan Jeanrenaud, Theresa Wong (cellos), Lisle Ellis (bass), Ben Goldberg (reeds), Toyoji Tomita, Jen Baker (trombones, didgeridoos), Darren Johnston, David Bithell (trumpets), Steve Adams (bass flute), Jon Raskin (baritone sax), Tim Perkis, Matt Wright (keyboards), William Winant, Gino Robair, Moe Staiano (percussion), Bruce Ackley (clarinet) and Larry Ochs (conductor), as well as Wall for the sextet of Bruce Ackley (soprano sax, tenor sax), Steve Adams (alto sax), Larry Ochs (tenor and sopranino saxophones), Jon Raskin (baritone saxophone), Gino Robair and William Winant (percussion).

Live performances by Larry Ochs' Drumming Core are documented on Stone Shift (november 2007), featuring Satoko Fuji on synthesizer and piano, Natsuki Tamura on trumpet and drummers Scott Amendola and Donald Robinson.

The Celestial Septet (november 2008) documents a live collaboration with guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff (the Nels Cline Singers). It is mostly an inferior work, despite Ochs' 25-minute Whose to Know.

Planetary (mostly recorded in april 2003)

The Receiving Surfaces (august 2010) documents a live performance by the Rova-John Zorn sax quintet.

Larry Ochs formed Kihnoua in 2007. The Sybil's Whisper (october 2011) features Dohee Lee (voice, hand drum), Wilbert Dejoode (bass) and Scott Amendola (drums, electronics).

Rova's A Short History (february 2003 and august 2011) contains Larry Ochs' three-movement suite Certain Space, ostensibly inspired by Giacinto Scelsi, Cecil Taylor and Morton Feldman.

The East-West Collective, a quintet consisting of Miya Masaoka (koto), Larry Ochs (tenor & sopranino saxes), Didier Petit (cello and voice), Xu Fengxia (guzheng and voice) and Sylvain Kassap (electronics), debuted with Humeurs (june 2013).

Spectral (may 2012) was recorded by the reed trio of Dave Rempis (alto sax), Darren Johnston (trumpet) and Larry Ochs (tenor & sopranino saxes).

Larry Ochs and drummer Donald Robinson recorded The Throne (september 2011).

The Fictive Five (december 2014), featuring Nate Wooley (trumpet), Pascal Niggenkemper and Ken Filiano (both on basses and effects) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums), contained the 25-minute Similitude and the 22-minute By Any Other Name.

Live At The Guelph Jazz Festival/Cleaning The Mirror (september 2012), containing a 68-minute revision of John Coltrane's Ascension, features the quartet flanked by a stellar cast: Nels Cline on electric guitar, Fred Frith on electric bass, Carla Kihlstedt on violin and electronics, Jenny Scheinman on violins, Chris Brown on electronics, Ikue Mori on laptop electronics, Rob Mazurek on cornet and electronics and Hamid Drake on drums.

No Favorites (july 2015), credited to Rova+Orkestrova, was a collaboration with Orkestrova's members Tara Flandreau (viola), Christina Stanley (violin), Alex Kelly (cello), Scott Walton (acoustic bass), John Shiurba (electric guitar), Jason Hoopes (electric bas) and Jordan Glenn (drums), that yielded three lengthy pieces: Ochs' 20-minute Nothing Stopped-But A Future, Adams' and Raskin's 13-minute The Double Negative, and the 27-minute Contours Of The Glass Head.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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