:: January - February 2017 ::

Rova presents Orkestrova in John Coltrane's Ascension January 29, SFJAZZ

In This Dispatch:

Orkestrova at SFJAZZ


Favorite Street: Larry Ochs - Cave Ruminations

Rova Member Shows

New Steve Adams Solo and Duo Recordings

RIP Pauline Oliveros

Rova T-Shirts!

As we enter our 40th season, Rova looks forward to a year of creativity and collaboration. Given the lone ranger-cowboy mentality that characterizes America’s current national personality disorder, and the tragic violence that continues to threaten the well-being of our communities, working together with other artists to solve creative and logistical problems is seen as an important antidote to the madness. And, although collaboration is part of Rova’s DNA, and has always been an active ingredient in our work, 2017 will find us especially engaged with other artists. Below is a snapshot of upcoming activities; complete details of all performances can be found further on in this communique, and on the Rova website.

At the end of January, two different configurations of our expanded ensemble, Orkestrova, will take the stage at SFJAZZ to present set-length programs inspired by masters of improvisation, John Coltrane and Lawrence “Butch” Morris.

Work with We Players and inkBoat heats up in the coming weeks, as we dream big for our ambitious March-April 2017 site-specific re-imagining of Beowulf. See the We Players website for complete details and to purchase tickets.


Sunday, January 29 2017, 7:30 PM


Rova Plays John Coltrane's Ascension
& No Favorites: A Tribute to Butch Morris

Butch Morris in conduction mode 

On the 4th anniversary of his untimely death, Rova’s expanded ensemble of sax quartet, power trio and string quartet will offer a special tribute concert to Butch Morris, No Favorites. We will also present Electric Ascension, Rova’s arrangement of John Coltrane’s late-period classic, Ascension. See the SFJAZZ website to read about the personnel, hear some samples, and buy tickets, which are already selling well. Advance purchase recommended.

Our connection to SFJAZZ goes back to the second Jazz in the City festival in 1984, and we have maintained our relationship to this SF institution over the past 3 decades with numerous performances. In a reprise of the 2005 performance celebrating the 40th anniversary of John Coltrane’s ecstatic masterpiece Ascension, Rova revisits the electrified re-imagining of the work with a number of guests artists including bassist Fred Frith and drummer Don Robinson, who performed on that momentous occasion eleven years ago, as well as harpist Zeena Parkins and guitarist Trey Spruance. Rova’s 2005 live recording documenting the piece, Electric Ascension, was called a “great triumph” by All About Jazz, and was listed by The Penguin Guide to Jazz as part of their “Core Collection” of essential albums. 

The other half of the evening pays homage to the late cornetist, composer, and conductor Lawrence “Butch” Morris in a program called No Favorites. Arranged for a lineup including Rova, a “power trio” of electric guitar, electric bass, and drums, and a string quartet, No Favorites pays homage to Morris’ adventurous spirit and his signature style of “conduction,” a term he coined to describe his combination of conducting, cueing, and improvisation. Rova’s new release dedicated to No Favorites has just been released on New World Records.

SFJAZZ Center, Miner Auditorium
201 Franklin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

No Favorites! Orkestrova, New World CD

Rova’s most recent CD release is just now receiving some early reviews. You can purchase it by clicking here or at the January 29 concert in San Francisco where we perform much of it live. Written by Jason Bivins and published in the excellent online publication, Point of Departure:
“For a group that’s been around for as long as Rova has, it’s mighty impressive that Mssrs. Ackley, Adams, Ochs, and Raskin continue to explore so many different groups and associations. Their Orkestrova settings are invariably challenging and impressive, and No Favorites! convenes a large group of Bay Area improvisers, with long associations of their own as well as (in several cases) connections to the late, lamented Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, to whom this recording is dedicated. Along with the saxophonists, the ambitious date includes violist Tara Flandreau, violinist Christina Stanley, cellist Alex Kelly, bassist Scott Walton, guitarist John Shiurba (always a pleasure), and Fred Frith’s current bandmates, electric bassist Jason Hoopes and drummer Jordan Glenn.

On the opening “Nothing Stopped/But A Future (for Buckminster Fuller)” (penned by Ochs and conducted by Gino Robair) one can immediately detect the influences of Morris, who was all about maximal color fields, textural range, and smart instrumental groupings. It’s effective in particular in the strings playing here, mournful and lyrical in some places, furiously scratching in others. Like the other pieces here, this one is complex and ever-moving, filled with beautiful dynamics and quite difficult transitions, all handled with aplomb by the smart, sensitive Robair. But regardless of how many different places it goes – stuttering rhythms, boiling multi-directional horns – it’s all unified by the intense conviction of the players and by the piece’s own directional ascent, rising from staccato drums into a huge horn fanfare and a maximum density chordal ending.

“The Double Negative” (co-composed by Adams and Raskin) opens with delicate strings pointillism, contrasting pizzicato and high keening as other musicians join steadily in layers to conjure an unsettled and tense atmosphere. Intervals and elegant sax lines move in and out of the foreground, providing structure and improvisational reference points. Lines increase in number and density, weaving in and out of each other until along come Shiurba and Hoopes to activate their twittering machines. It’s a marvelous study in contrast. And then, almost out of nowhere, it’s like all the varied elements are sucked into a great humming cloud of sound, with occasional percussive declamations. The long Rova-composed piece “Contours of the Glass Head” opens by contrasting furious electronic scrabble with the stateliest, most elegant horns and strings. At length, the gnashing and the wailing take the lead, and there’s some especially intense stuff from Glenn and Flandreau. With great big slashes, the engine heats up and then – in another of the marvelous coalescences heard on these pieces – unfurls in a long ensemble gliss that recalls Giacinto Scelsi. With an “anything is possible” aesthetic over nearly half an hour, the piece goes to all kinds of places. Paradiddles and trills endeavor to withstand white noise. A harmolodic guitar trio matches wits with a hyper-drive Braxtonian pulse track. And intense improvisations scuffle over an almost hymnal tone-bath. When the album ends in an abrupt, crystalline punctuation, it’s almost hard to get your bearings again. But it’s hard not to be intoxicated by such head-scrambling exploration.”

- Jason Bivins



March 11 - April 16

An exploration of darkness and light, power and conquest, monstrosity and heroism - performed through startling imagery, rich soundscape, and intense physicality.

We Players presents a sweeping site-integrated production inspired by the ancient epic BEOWULF along the northern waterfront of San Francisco and in the historic chapel at Fort Mason Center. 

This world premiere is a collaboration between We Players, Rova, and inkBoat Dance Theatre, and produced in partnership with Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. 

Tickets Available HERE!


Favorite Street: Larry Ochs

Cave Ruminations    

Prologue: In spring 2014, I received an email from one Alban Jacques in Toulouse, France. He had recently explored a “privately owned cave” near Toulouse at the invitation of the owner, a cave that held some 150 prehistoric man-made cave paintings.  Would I be interested to record in the cave with saxophones and see what happens? Two and a half years later – Gerald Cleaver, Larry Ochs and an official exploration crew - organized by Alban Jacques and Rogue Art CD producer Michel Dorbon -wended our way down into this wild cave. My experience was unforgettable. What follows is an attempt to describe it. The music that came out of the experience will become public later.

It was only upon my return to California, and the subsequent receiving of the live recordings from our just-completed journey to the secret cave, that I was able to stop feeling tragically about this adventure. I thought I had blown the entire mission; that I’d missed “grokking” the cave; missed taking the time to “get with the vibe” of this wild place; set my priorities all wrong and failed to connect with the cave’s untrammeled natural environment. But when I heard the first minute of the raw recording I realized immediately and happily that “the cave was there with us the whole time”; it made us a part of it immediately. This wild place had in fact been the third participant—and the main participant—in a three-way music-improvisation that also included Gerald Cleaver on his partial drum-kit, and myself on saxophones.

My wife Lyn made the comment a week or so ago that it’s only after the fact upon reflection that she begins to understand extraordinary events. I didn’t go into this trip thinking about any of this because as usual I didn’t have time to pause and reflect on what was coming. In my world, it’s almost always about managing the day in front of you and being present for the immediate event. Sure; there is a planning stage where one usually lists the events in order and gets mentally ready to go down that list and nail each situation in its expected order. But, this project was different aka unique. So different that there was no anticipating much of it. I had been in caves before. But never in a truly wild cave where few humans per year are even allowed to enter. So even if I’d taken that time to mentally prepare, even if I’d looked more closely at the list of activities and tried to imagine them, I didn’t have the experience to anticipate them. I still regret (as I write this) not having another day there. Just one. But then, that’s after the revelation of the recordings. If that third day in the cave had been scheduled / allowed by the cave’s owners, would we have actually listened to the recordings from Day 2 before going back? Would we have actually taken advantage of that extra day “to go deeper?”

[Click here to continue reading article.]


Rova Member Shows

Tuesday, February 14, 9:00 PM

Ochs / Robinson Duo

The Uptown
1928 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612



New Steve Adams Solo and Duo Recordings

Steve Adams has a new solo project A Capella Barbeque now available on Bandcamp featuring nine original pieces for alto sax, bass flute and electronics.

And, Steve’s electronics duo with John Hanes has been posting new pieces regularly to their Soundcloud page - check it out!

RIP Pauline Oliveros, 1932-2016

During a year of heart-wrenching and shocking losses in the world of innovative artists, the passing of Pauline hit very close to Rova’s epicenter. We first met Ms. Oliveros during a Washington DC concert trip in the early ‘80s, and participated in one of her public performance pieces there. We later had the opportunity to commission a new work for quartet from her, Saxual Orientation (1997). Rova will perform that work in a memorial concert for her in Oakland on January 27, recognizing Oliveros’ enormous contribution to the contemporary art scene. Also featured will be the sfSound Ensemble, performing the 1961 composition, Sound Patterns.

Rova T-Shirts!!!

Check out the design below, featuring an image shot by our friend, Finnish photographer, Lauri Nykopp, which is printed on quality black tees. THE SHIRTS ARE VERY LIMITED EDITION. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Available in XXL – XL – L - M

US: $20 + tax $1.75 + shipping $4 US = $25.75 Foreign: $20 + tax $1.75 + shipping $8 = $29.75

Click here to order your t-shirt


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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.

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Bandcamp! Bandcamp!

We’re now offering both new and impossible to find Rova recordings and other points of interest on our Bandcamp page. Be sure to check out recordings there, including No Favorites, as well as, for example, the long out-of-print 1990 recording Long on Logic that we are making available as a CD download for the first time.

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