:: ROVA NEWS: December – January 2013 ::

In this Newsletter:

» Support Rova! End-of-the-year Donor Campaign

» Latest Rova Kickstarter Update

» Upcoming Rova Member Shows

» The Center for New Music Opens!

» Favorite Street – Steve Adams

» Join the Rova:Arts Community

Orkestrova at Guelph Jazz Festival Image John Rogers

In August Rova enthusiastically participated in a great Fred Frith concert in San Francisco at Slim’s, where he reprised his 1980 Ralph Records album, Gravity , and invited friends to set the stage for the affair. Rova played 3 pieces from the album-length composition Frith created for Rova a few decades back, Freedom in Fragments. October we were in the studio recording versions of John Zorn’s 1977 composition, Curling, for a possible upcoming release. The Rovas are involved in some behind the scenes work to prepare for upcoming concerts and projects. We’re thrilled with the opening of a new performance space in San Francisco, the Center for New Music . The center will provide a unique concert venue and gathering place for those excited by non-commercial music organized at the sonic frontier. Read more below, and check the Rova site and forthcoming newsletters for more on our concert schedule there.


Rova at Slim’s, August, 2012 Photo Derk Richardson


Support Rova! End-of-the-year Donor Campaign

The Rova:Arts community really came through for us this summer by making donations through Kickstarter that led to the filming of our Electric Ascension performance at the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival. Now Rova is looking ahead to our next ambitious undertaking: a special multi-media work entitled Grand Electric Skull, an evening-length piece that features Rova in collaboration with composer/percussionist Gino Robair and sound/image designer, Ikue Mori, who will be creating original digital animation for the project. Visit our website to learn more, and please consider making a contribution to support this exciting collaboration: http://www.rova.org/get-involved.html .

Latest Rova Kickstarter Update

Project Update #15: [Early November] Update on Electric Ascension Video: A Progress Report

Posted by Larry Ochs & John Rogers

On October 20, Larry Ochs and Marc Urselli spent 8 hours mixing the sound for Electric Ascension in New York. We are not done yet, but we got far enough to know that we really have something very special on tape. (Sorry, showing my age with the phrase “on tape” but you know what I mean.) Yes: we did hear the enthusiasm of the audience on the night of the concert; we heard it again the whole next day from individuals who had been in the audience and were not shy to come up to us at the hotel or in the streets of Guelph and enthuse. And we felt great about it after it was over. But none of that guarantees that the music will come across in a recording. So it’s nice to able to confirm that the music is there. The blues according to John Coltrane—that feeling really comes through on this take of the piece. The process of mixing, though, takes time.

My main observation upon listening to each player’s contributions—listening to the individual on their own track—was that I could easily pick certain trios, quintets etc. out of the group and create a recording from one of those configurations that would be amazing/beautiful/profound. So, there are choices to be made during mixing in terms of what to feature and then, what exactly to collectivize into “the firmament of sound” that bubbles along like a beautiful orchestral voice. I’m speaking now of the ensemble improvisations mostly, when more than five or six people are involved. The duo, trio, quartet and quintet sections within the larger piece are beautiful now (maybe there are a few minor tweaks left to do on each small grouping). And, one of the very exciting parts of this recording of Electric Ascension is just how musically different in feel it is from the recording made of the first performance in 2003 (released by the Chicago label Atavistic in 2005), further illuminating what a great vehicle for improvisation the Coltrane composition Ascension really is. That the piece could accommodate both versions performed by 12 musicians, ten of whom were there at the first performance, and be so different is a revelation and quite gratifying.

And then there’s the video: it looks great even at this early stage in production. High definition video is a great invention. John Rogers continues to work on editing the picture to best show the music-making and, hopefully, to capture some of the magic. The process of editing from five synched cameras is made infinitely easier by multi-camera editing software, but still takes a lot of work. How did they do this stuff in “the old days”? Once the picture cutting is completed, the next step for the video will be to bring in a specialist to do the final color correction.

We hope to have the music download available sometime in January or early February. As for the video, late spring sometime as a download. The photo diary however, shots of the load-in, rehearsal and show, are ready to deliver now via the Kickstarter site: http://www.kickstarter.com/. Toronto based photographer Marek Lasarski was kind enough to spend the whole day with us. Most of the shots in this photo diary (over 90%) are his, with a few added shots from the tech people showing you the recording set-up and the cameras in the audience, and a few stills from the video footage. That is now online for download.

Finally, it seems to make sense, as I talk about full ensemble versus smaller ensemble sections: here below we show you what we call “The Map” of the piece as performed in Guelph. It shows you what you can anticipate hearing and seeing as the audio and video are completed next year. The Map simply shows which players are performing in each section. The complicated thing is cueing the sections in and out in real time as the piece develops onstage; mostly “phased in or out,” one player at a time. Primarily these cues were made by Jon Raskin, who did a fantastic job on this performance. From my perspective, it’s possible that any one of these instrumental combinations could perform an entire set of music based on the EA theme on their own. Deciding when to cue sections out and bring in the next one is a series of tricky decisions that determines the overall arc of the piece and really makes or breaks the show. Those decisions are improvised as the piece develops.

Electric Ascension Guelph Jazz Festival 2012 Image John Rogers
Electric Ascension Map for Guelph Concert:


HEAD (the notated music) and CHORUS (chord progression) into GROUP IMPROVISATION

  3. IKUE – CARLA - FRED // add HAMID // followed by CHORUS and/or GROUP IMPROVISATION
  4. JON – ROB – HAMID // followed by CHORUS and/or GROUP IMPROVISATION
  5. JENNY – NELS duo // add CHRIS
  6. add BRUCE / add FRED and HAMID / phase out JENNY (BRUCE with NELS-FRED-HAMID-CHRIS) // followed by CHORUS and/or GROUP IMPROVISATION
  7. CHRIS with IKUE, ROB
  9. add NELS cycler / add FRED / add CHRIS and IKUE cyclers // followed by CHORUS and/or GROUP IMPROVISATION
  11. HAMID and FRED (Ochs = COLORS cues)
  12. GROUP IMPROVISATION and Final reading of HEAD

Upcoming Rova Member Shows

Monday and Tuesday, January 10, 11

Mark Dresser – bass
Larry Ochs – saxophones
Vladimir Tarasov – drums

468 19th Street

(Check venue website closer to dates for start times, etc.) http://duendeoakland.com/

Thursday, January 13, 7:00 PM

Raskin / Goodheart / Tarasov w. special guest David Wessel
Jon Raskin - saxophones
Vladimir Tarasov -
Matthew Goodheart -
David Wessel -
computer electronics

1750 Arch Street


The group's composing ideas and skills have come to play, and the improvisations have an organic construction that can be whimsical and formal, frothy and forthright. It is a rare and special opportunity to hear Vladimir Tarasov in the Bay Area, and to see and hear David Wessel’s surround sound electronics rig in his laboratory.


The Center for New Music Opens!

55 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Rova and the community around adventurous, non-commercial music in the Bay Area and beyond are thrilled with the opening of a new venue, The Center for New Music. The Center is the brainchild of composers Brent Miller and Adam Fong, and is intended to be a gathering place for artists and supporters of creative music realized at the nexus of composition and improvisation.

The Center’s Mission
The Center for New Music San Francisco, Inc. is a community center for participants of new music in San Francisco. The Center serves the practitioners of creative, non-commercial music by providing the resources they need, including space to work, rehearse, and perform, access to a like-minded community, and access to media resources. Through these services, the Center seeks to support and build the community of new music to encourage its efficiency, growth, integration, and excellence.

The first concert, with Ikue Mori and composer/vocalist, Ken Ueno, was presented on December 1 st and set a serious and engaging tone for what will be a significant hub for music performance and community building. Conveniently located just off Market Street in downtown San Francisco, the Center is a perfect space for rehearsal, performance, administrative activities and networking—a much-needed resource for the Bay Area’s music community. Check out the Center’s website, become a member, and join the community.

We are pleased to announce that beginning in 2013, Rova:Arts will be in residence at the center, maintaining its office on site, and presenting several concerts there.


Favorite Street – Steve Adams

Trumpeter, Rob Mazurek

Steve Reports on the Guelph Jazz Festival 2012

We played the Guelph Jazz Festival in early September, which was a memorable thrill both as a performer and as a listener. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our Kickstarter supporters, we were able to get a top quality video of our performance of Electric Ascension, playing John Coltrane’s landmark piece with a dream band—Carla Kihlstedt and Jenny Scheinman on violins, Rob Mazurek on cornet, Chris Brown and Ikue Mori on electronics, Nels Cline on guitar, Fred Frith on bass and Hamid Drake on drums with Rova. I was more nervous for this performance than I’ve been for anything in years, since so much time, effort and expense had gone into making it happen. It went amazingly well, and we were able to get a great looking video and audio recording, which should be ready for distribution very soon. It was perhaps the most balanced of our performances of the piece, with sections of remarkable beauty and delicacy appearing out of the volcanic energy. Thanks also to the people of the Guelph Festival, who did a flawless job of presenting the music as it should be, while making the whole experience immensely enjoyable for us.

Saxophonist Colin Stetson

As I studied the complex schedule, I realized that there was music I really wanted to hear almost all the way through, so I pulled my first all-nighter in many years. The first concert I heard was the Larry Ochs/Hamid Drake duo in one of the many yoga studios hosting music (adding to the confusion.) It was a beautiful set, and a great place to hear Hamid, who I’d never heard live before this festival. He has a wonderful way of incorporating pulse-based time into free jazz drumming that’s totally great. Every seat was taken, which was to turn out to be true for most concerts all night long.

Rabbit Rabbit Radio

After dinner, I caught the end of Abdullah Ibrahim’s solo concert, which was distilled in way that comes with age—no wasted notes. Wandering the city for the next while, I heard a little bit of an electronica concert and a local band Shuffle Demons doing some high-energy Mingus. I tried to catch Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer but couldn’t get in, so I headed over to Fred Frith’s solo set. I’ve heard Fred solo many times, and this was the best I’ve ever heard him. The music had a symphonic scope and there was an unerring rightness to all the choices he was making. Next was Ikue Mori doing her new work combining computer-generated visuals with her electronics, which was really engaging. Then dashed across the street to hear Rabbit Rabbit, the new project (and website) of Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi, which was cool, punchy short pieces, mostly or entirely composed, that make the most of their remarkably wide-ranging talents. I was only able to hear the last piece by the great Canadian clarinetist François Houle, where he was playing with oud player Gordon Grdina. Next was the concert I was most eagerly anticipating, by Rob Mazurek’s group Sao Paolo Underground, with Brazilian musicians Mauricio Takara on drums and cavaquinho, and Guilherme Granado on mutant keyboards. They play a gritty, high-energy music that combines an irresistible rhythmic sense with beautifully lyrical cornet lines, and plenty of curve balls from all of them. Even at 4 a.m., the place was packed!

After a trip back to the hotel, it was time for Rova to end the evening with a 6 a.m. concert at their art museum. They were doing events throughout the festival to commemorate the John Cage centenary, so we were preceded there by a performance of his Music for Amplified Toy Pianos. I was surprised and pleased to see so many people show up at dawn, including one family with a little boy who looked like they just woken up and headed to the concert. Also deserving mention are two deeply committed fans who drove to the festival to hear us, one from Montreal and one from Oakland. Wow! In spite of the hour we had a fantastic time playing there. We performed my piece CAGE, dedicated to John Cage as well as other works. Then it was off to the airport for the flight home.

RIP John Tchichai
The late saxophonist, John Tchichai
In October we were stunned by the passing of John Tchichai, an original saxophone voice who resurfaced on the Bay Area improv scene in the early 1990’s. Tchichai was an important part of the New York jazz vanguard in the early ‘60s, co-leading the New York Art Quartet with trombonist Roswell Rudd, working regularly with Archie Shepp in his New York Contemporary Five group, and appearing on Shepp’s 1964 masterpiece, Four for Trane. He was also in the original lineup for John Coltrane’s Ascension and offered a fascinating solo on that recording. Many of us had opportunities to hear John in the Bay Area and Europe over the last 3 decades, and were always impressed by his unique tone and his lyrical ferocity on the horn. Rova had tried to engage Tchichai for our 1995 Ascension performance at the Great American Music Hall, but the plan, unfortunately, did not work out. Thanks to Mr. Tchichai for his improvisational daring, and for his artistic contribution to the scene.


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Stay Tuned
You can stay in touch with all Rova:Arts activities through our website, the Rova newsletter, and our FaceBook and MySpace pages. See links at the bottom of the page. Also, check out Rova on YouTube!  Subscribe to our channel and be notified when there are new Rova videos for you to watch. Go to http://www.youtube.com/user/ROVAARTSSF and click the subscribe button.

Thanks to Rova Friends!
We want to express our deepest gratitude to all the generous private and public donors who contribute to Rova:Arts. Your support has been essential to the successful presentation and documentation of our projects over the years. As Rova enters our 35 th season of adventurous improvised music making, we hope those of you who do contribute to the arts annually will consider making a donation to Rova:Arts.

About Rova:Arts
Rova:Arts, formed in 1986 to support the activities of Rova, has been instrumental in producing local projects and advancing an ongoing cultural exchange between local Bay Area artists and the international scene through its Rovaté concert series. These events, made possible by funding to Rova:Arts, have engaged Bay Area musicians and composers—as well as musicians from around the world. Rova:Arts projects are often reproduced in other parts of the world, thereby bringing the work to a broader audience. Also, many Rova:Arts events have been recorded, resulting in releases which have been enthusiastically celebrated.

Click here to find out more and to Join Rova:Arts. If you are interested in getting involved in a more hands-on-way, feel free to contact us: http://www.rova.org/contact.html. Thanks for being part of the art.


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