Rova / Rova:Arts
115 Central Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94117

:: June - Aug 2019 ::
Orkestrova breaking from rehearsals for Cecil Taylor’s Dark to Themselves
Photo: Myles Boisen

(Left to right) Jean-Paul Bourelly; Ochs; Donald Robinson; Raskin; Adams; Jason Hoopes; Ackley; Henry Kaiser

In This Dispatch:

Rova Plays Bird & Beckett

Other Local Rova Shows
Upcoming Rova Member Shows

Review of New Ochs Recording


Our tribute concert to Cecil Taylor in April was a glowing success. Thanks so much to listeners who came out to bask in the light of Cecil’s spirit, to Positive Knowledge and duo B., and to the Orkestrova players for making it a special night. Everyone delivered with directed and inspired energy. Thanks also to Myles Boisen for his singular support, helping to ensure what the musicians were producing was being accurately portrayed in the sound system, and for his wonderful photos. Oluyemi Thomas of Positive Knowledge shared the following with me: "Solid!!! It was a deep connection night remembering and feeling Mr. Cecil present with us and in each of our performances. I loved each act tremendously and the audience felt it also inwardly." Long time Rova friend, Tim Dufka, was so moved hearing Oluyemi’s bass clarinet that night, he went out and got one and is now learning to play it.

Rova spent 6 days in the Gino Robair’s home studio since January, developing source material for a studio-based recording project. The idea for creating works that are free of live performance concerns is largely Jon Raskin’s. But both he and Steve Adams have assumed joint stewardship, working directly with Gino to steer the process. Larry and Bruce have also contributed ideas, and all 5 of us are active decision makers. We’re really happy with what’s beginning to emerge, and you can expect more news on the project in the coming months.

At the beginning of July we’ll put the finishing touches on a recent set of pieces that will be ready for release in 2020. The centerpiece of the recording session is NC17, a flexible structure for improvisers devised by Rova members. The recording will include 2 versions of the piece, and myriad arrangements are possible. We’re looking forward to having an opportunity to really “look under the hood” of this piece when we get out on the road in the fall. Also included are new works by Steve Adams, and a Glenn Spearman piece, arranged by Larry Ochs.

So, in a minute, Rova will have two new recordings “on the can”, as our old friend Pedro de Freitas (of the now defunct Sound Aspects Records) used to say.

We’ll play locally over the next couple of months, and then head to the Midwest for several shows in the fall. There’s even a vague possibility of our touring in South America later this summer. A long shot, but certainly a future dream. Also, be sure to see word below on shows each of us are doing individually.

Rova Plays Bird & Beckett Books

Rova in action at the Ivy Room

Saturday, June 29, 7:30 PM:

Bird & Beckett Books has established itself as a welcoming venue for a broad range of improvisation-based bands, and Rova’s finally joining the party. The proprietor, Eric Whittington, has created an intimate neighborhood spot that draws an engaged audience for their various concert series. Rova will include new and recent works, as well as dust off some pieces from the repertoire. And, recent studio work will be reflected and refracted through the open improvisations we’ll explore.

For those coming from the East Bay, the store is one block from Glen Park BART. Hope to see you there.

Bird & Beckett Books & Records

653 Chenery Street
in San Francisco's Glen Park
More details here.

Other Local Rova Shows

Friday, June 21st 5:00 – 9:00 PM

Rova Plays The Garden of Memory

This annual event offers Bay Area listeners a unique opportunity to sample the wealth and depth of the forward-looking music scene that is currently on fire in our community. The range of groups and soloists is staggering, and the 4 hour concert length allows each of them to really stretch out. Rova usually shares a space in the chapel with another group, alternating 30 minute sets. A good place for magic to happen.

The Chapel of the Chimes 

4499 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland 94611

More details here.
Directions to Chapel of the Chimes
Concert-goers are advised to either carpool, bike, or come by public transportation, as parking can be very limited. 4499 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland, reachable from I-580, 13, and 24 freeways next to Mountain View Cemetery. AC Transit Line 12 stops at the corner of Piedmont Ave and Pleasant Valley Rd – two blocks away. The bus line serves both Ashby and 19th St BART stations, as well as the AMTRAK station.

Thursday, August 1, 8:00 PM

Thollem’s Everywhere Quintet

Thollem McDonas

Thollem + Rova

Vagabonding firebrand, Thollem, has invited Rova to join him at the Center for New Music for a concert of improvisations with acoustic and electric piano.

From Thollem: Thollem's Everywhere Quintet is an Omni-Idiomatic spontaneous communal expression of musical freedom and variety through as many possibilities the musicians are capable of creating. Performed by an entirely different group of 5 musicians each time, Everywhere Music is constantly changing, from moment to moment and performance to performance. It reaches into every sonic permutation the musicians can conjure including all the possible combinations of timbres, textures, rhythms, modalities and genres. It is an approach that encourages the musicians to fully express their musical influences and interests, to reinvent themselves and to create something entirely unique in the moment together.

The Center for New Music

55 Taylor Street near Market
San Francisco 94102
More details here.

Upcoming Rova Member Shows

Monday, July 1, 9:00 PM

Ackley-Orcutt Duo

Bill Orcutt
Bruce Ackley – soprano saxophone
Bill Orcutt – electric guitar

After having seen Bill Orcutt perform a half dozen times, Bruce invited him to play duo. Karl Evangelista, who curates the first Monday improv series at the Make Out agreed it was a good idea. We’re looking forward to what should prove to be a creative partnership, and exciting show.
Listen here.

The Make Out Room

3225 - 22nd Street @ Mission
San Francisco 94110

More details here

Thursday, July 11, 7:30 PM

Jon Raskin plays Steve Lacy

Jon Raskin, solo saxophone, will play pieces from Lacy’s “Practitioner’s Book W”. Here’s a clip of Lacy playing Wasted in Paris, 1982.


Steve Adams - John Hanes Duo

Hanes and Adams, fresh off appearances at the SF Tape Music Festival and SFSound’s Radiodinner, play improvised electronic duets. Listen here.

The Center for New Music

55 Taylor Street near Market
San Francisco 94102
More details here.

Sunday, August 4 [Check listing for time]

Ochs-Alex Cline-Golia-Garth Powell

Garth Powell

Larry Ochs & Vinny Golia – saxophones
Alex Cline & Garth Powell - drums

Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock

2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
(1 block west of Eagle Rock Blvd.)
Admission is $10 (Students, seniors, and past series performers half price)

More details here.

Review of New Larry Ochs CD

Label: Clean Feed, 2019
Larry Ochs - tenor and sopranino saxophones
Nels Cline - electric guitar, effects
Gerald Cleaver - drums

If you want to figure out how music can be so ferocious and intimate at the same time, you should try What Is To Be Done, a compulsory trio record featuring saxophonist Larry Ochs, guitarist Nels Cline, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. The album brings a special motivation since it marks the 500th release of the Lisbon-based avant-jazz imprint Clean Feed.

The three musicians have been gigging together for quite some time but never had recorded before as a group. Saxophonist and guitarist were temporary partners in the Rova’s Electric Ascension bands, while Cleaver records with Cline for the first time, taking the opportunity to tighten the musical bond with Ochs after their duo album Songs of the Wild Cave (RogueArt, 2018).

They let the music breathe in the introductory section of the mercurial “Outcries Rousing”, where we hear elongated, electrified guitar chords sustaining a bashful saxophone. Moments later, Ochs wallows in a rasping rumpus with just Cleaver’s magnetic backbeat underneath. Even when Cline joins again, causing a darned detonation of acid-rock and proto-funk, the musicians find their own space, stretching their imagination to reinforce the collective’s integrity. A rare dark atmospheric passage seems to motivate Cline to subvert the sonic milieu. He dishes out twangy, spasmodically electro strokes synced with methodical percussive thumps. This segment evolves into an avalanche of sound created by continual noise guitar, fraught and resilient saxophone trajectories delineated with dark tones, and the catchy, athletic pulses from Cleaver. He is a fantastic rhythm sculptor, who also excels in the following structural block marked by prog-rock invention and electronica slipperiness. Running over 20 minutes, there’s a lot going on here, and the trio even stops by power-metal territories before Ochs detours toward East, throwing in sumptuous, Arabic-flavored phrases.

A Pause, a Rose” is initially tinged with folk influences, affected by cascades of draggy electronic effects, and ultimately buoyed up by a lovely, fragmented trippy rhythm that produces glorious results with the guitar and soprano sax atop.

Like the opening track, “Shimmer Intend Spark Groove Defend” goes above 20 minutes, relying on the intense capacity of communication between the trio members, who work from many different angles. Exhibiting seamless transitions while pummeling with impressive force, this track includes relentless primitive rhythms, eerie drones, agonizing groans and spiraling phrases on the saxophone, and a variety of guitar textures comprising serene loopy vibes, loud spiky liberations, grungy tautness, and psych-rock stabs.

This is a tiny treasure of a disc, where you find no subterfuges and every section becomes a fresh discovery.

Grade: A

Filipe Freitas on JAZZ-TRAIL


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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.

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. Thanks for being part of the art.

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, Saxophone Special, 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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