? rova:arts | On Rova's Radar
:: MAR - APR 2016 ::
Excerpt of score by Aram Shelton for sax quintet show on April 22 at Center for New Music, SF

In This Dispatch:

Forthcoming Rova Projects & CD Releases

Upcoming Rova Shows

Rova Channeling Coltrane: New All-in-one DVD/Bluray/CD (release date January 15, 2016)

Favorite Street, pt. 1: NYC Residency - Ochs Reports

Favorite Street, pt. 2: NYC Residency - Ackley Reports

+1: Allison Miller: Life Music

Rova Member Shows

Rova T-Shirts!

Rova spent two action packed weeks on the East Coast—which rolled with only one major hitch (read: a memorable blizzard snowed out our Figure 8 concert on Saturday night!). Below is a ringside blow-by-blow report of our New York City residency put together by Larry and Bruce—which we trust will give you a glimpse into the utter joy, and maddening logistics of breathing it all into life.

Now that we’re back home, we’ve begun exploratory rehearsals with We Players and inkBoat performers, conceptualizing a major collaborative project for the spring of 2017. Exciting work! Several projects we’ve recording are slated for release this year, and the band is starting its performance schedule on April 22nd at Center for New Music. All this and news about Rova member shows are below.

Forthcoming Rova Projects & CD Releases

Early Notice: Rovaté 2016 – “The One That Got Away”

For those of you needing lots of advance notice, like if you’re living in Europe and dreaming of a vacation to San Francisco: consider being in town the night of Saturday May 14, when Rova brings the Rova Saxophone OCTET to ODC’s “Studio B”.

We report elsewhere in this issue of ORR about highlights of Rova’s recent NY residency: 11 concerts over 8 days. But one concert got away from us. The record-setting blizzard that hit New York snowed out the saxophone octet show. Steve Adams—with some assistance from Ochs—had labored for weeks over new parts, deciphered and reconstructed from Ochs’ 23-year-old seriously-faded, hand-written scores and scraps and revisions. The music consists of three lengthy compositions Ochs put together in 1993, commissioned by Saalfelden Jazz Festival and later partly revised when recorded for the Italian label, Black Saint.

The music demands to be heard some 20+ years later. Revisiting the recording, the charts and the concepts has made clear its lasting value. 8 saxophones! Very exciting sounds—ecstasy.

We have decided to import Vinny Golia from Los Angeles, who recorded the pieces with us in 1994--and who urged Ochs to revive the sax octet for the New York residency. And we invite 3 younger local musicians to join us for the May 14 show. The three great players added for this century’s octet premiere: Aram Shelton, Cory Wright and Phillip Greenlief. Plus Vinny Golia. Plus Ochs, Adams, Ackley and Raskin. On saxophones ranging from the bass sax up to the mighty (small) soprillo. More on this story in the May edition of ORR.

Rova 2016 European Tour – November – December 2016

Booking of the quartet and several special projects is going on now. Please contact Larry or write directly to our booking agent at Kato-Bookbird in Germany. Check the Kato-Bookbird or European Jazz Network websites for more details.

Progress Reports on Upcoming Recording releases

Butch Morris homage releases in Fall, 2016
Rova members return to Fantasy Studios in March to mix No Favorites!—recordings made last year with an 11-piece “OrkestRova.” The rough mixes sound really pretty good; an excellent sign that we got the goods here, as rough mixes often are, well: “rough”. RELEASE planned by NEW WORLD RECORDS (New York) in October 2016.

Update: Rova Plays Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special
Mixing is virtually completed by Henry Kaiser and Steve Adams. This CD’s worth of music features all the compositions Lacy recorded in 1974 on the Emanem label – a record that certainly helped inspire Rova to become Rova. Our new recording will have the same instrumentation as the original: sax quartet plus electric guitar (Kaiser) and electronics (Kyle Bruckmann, in a star-turning appearance). Soon the hunt for a label begins.

Rova Box Set: a reissue of “the Black Saint Years"

We have word from the owner and caretaker of the Black Saint label, CAM JAZZ, that a Box Set of all the Rova recordings made between 1984 and 1998 will be released towards the end of 2016. This should include the saxophone octet CD, the three quartet CDs called “The Works”—each volume featuring notable commissions; plus about 4 other quartet CDs. In an affordable package and re-mastered. We’ll keep you posted. (Check the CAM JAZZ website now for other amazingly affordable box sets by other Black Saint artists.)


Upcoming Rova Shows

Friday, April 22, 8:00 PM

Rova + 1, Pts. 1 & 2: featuring Aram Shelton and Gino Robair 

Aram Shelton: Like, blow!

Gino Robair gets serious

Rovas Jon Raskin and Bruce Ackley have each selected a collaborator to work with the quartet to offer two diverse sets of Rova plus music.

Aram Shelton has created original sax quintet pieces for the 5 of us. We'll perform two of his scores inspired by visit to the Canyonlands regionof southeastern Utah. Inspired by the landscape and his experiences, Shelton composed a set of non-linear, improvisation-centric scores by repurposing trail maps of the Canyonlands National Park as the basis for a graphic score, and created game piece rules influenced by the act of hiking. Each player chooses their own route to the next cued destination, and the graphic elements dictate improvisational emphasis: rhythm, texture, melody.

Iconoclast Gino Robair will team up with the quartet for a series of improvisations in various groupings. These long-standing instigators always excite new and imaginative sounds whenever they’re on the scene. In June, Rova + 1, Pts. 3 & 4 Ochs and Adams have invited Wobbly and TBD to pair up with Rova.

Center for New Music
55 Taylor Street near Market
San Francisco


Rova Channeling Coltrane: All-in-one DVD/Bluray/CD (release date January 15, 2016)

Since our last newsletter in January, Rova Channeling Coltrane, the new Bluray/DVD/CD all-in-one package had its official 2016 release on the Paris label Rogue Art. We can’t tell you how happy we are with the quality of this 3 disc package. You can purchase this directly from Rova now here, and we’ll send it out right away.

Here are the first two reviews of the set—enthusiastic reports about the music and films that comprise this newest Rova release:
Nate Chinen review for NY Times
Andrew Gilbert review for KQED



Favorite Street Pt. 1: NYC Residency - Ochs Reports

For an artist or an ensemble to have the invaluable opportunity to perform nightly for several days is so rare in our decimated music scene. And to be able to have a string of gigs without having to travel allows all focus and energy to be on the art and performance, rather than the logistics and drain of moving from city to city, hotel to hotel.

Rova’s east coast residency from January 17 to 24 will certainly serve as a watershed in our nearly 4 decade history: the year-long prep and the run of spectacular concerts has given the band an even deeper connection with our music and its possibilities, and opened windows to the next period.

The shows began with an ecstatic Electric Ascension on January 17 at Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village, and continued for the following week at the Stone on the Lower East Side. We were honored to have been invited by Winter Jazzfest and John Zorn to present a week’s worth of our music, both past and present; music presented not only as a quartet but also in several larger ensembles, chosen from the many special projects created over the past 38 years.

Read Ochs' and Ackley's reflections and insights just below, garnered from this exciting trip.

Italian jazz lovers getting the news in New York, January 2016

Electric Ascension New York – January 17, 2016 – Ochs Reports

So much goes into getting one of these shows “ready.” That’s the way it always feels before it happens. First there’s corralling the right combination of musicians, given whatever limitations are imposed on any given show. For example, because this was taking place in mid-January when weather can be a factor, I felt absolutely that all the musicians had to live in greater New York City. For example, we knew going in that 12 musicians would only have 6 monitors, and we knew going in that Electric Ascension had never really worked all that well in smaller venues like the club space we would be taking it in to in New York. A piece that is often about collective sound-mass, about expressive sounds en masse, is dependent on the PA system and the hall itself to help make it work acoustically.

But—after a lot of thought and discussion with our crack sound engineer Marc Urselli and the club’s tech staff, and after the performance-day’s sound-check and walk-thru of the piece, when the concert started—if not “right from the downbeat” then certainly by the 12-minute mark, when Nels Cline dug into “his section” and started to build one of his solos to the stratosphere—my doubts washed away, and I wondered once again, even as I found myself marveling at the music I was hearing, why I ever allowed stress to creep in. Coltrane’s composition, rendered fifty years ago in 1965, pretty much guarantees that the bandstand is going to lift off during the performance, usually more than a few times, as long as we have a great crew of musicians that feels it and steers it and an audience ready to roll with us.

The New York show slammed into gear right from the downbeat. Ochs started right in with the first line of the theme, and right behind him, it seemed, came a drum shot from Gerald Cleaver that announced to the audience: this ride is on! Very cool.

Back to a few of the many highlights of this night’s rendition in a minute; a little more back-story: Rova was invited by John Zorn over a year ago to come to New York January 17-24, 2016 and create a retrospective of sorts; 12 concerts at The Stone in 6 nights highlighting Rova’s music; which we interpreted as highlighting both the quartet repertoire and as many collaborations as we wanted to recreate. This sounded great to me, and when I presented Zorn’s offer to the other Rovas, they jumped at the idea. It was easy for us to imagine doing all kinds of things that week at The Stone. But the one show I really wanted to be part of this retrospective that just made no sense at The Stone was Electric Ascension. Too many musicians to fit in a semi-circle at The Stone; the need for a really grand PA—amplification that fills a room with clean sound—and of course there’s the fact that Ascension inevitably draws a lot of people.

Ascension draws an audience for several reasons.

[To continue to read Larry Ochs’ article click here.]


Favorite Street Pt. 2: NYC Residency - Ackley Reports

Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special @ the Stone – January 21, 2016

Steve Lacy’s music and mode of operation have had enormous impact on Rova. His 1974 live concert recording of Saxophone Special—with Lacy, Evan Parker, Trevor Watts, and Steve Potts on saxes, along with Derek Bailey, guitar, and Michel Waisvisz, synthesizer—was one of the earliest manifestations of saxophone quartet improvisation. With Anthony Braxton’s saxophone quartet composition, released on his New York, Fall 1974 recording, Saxophone Special resonated with soon-to-be Rovas Raskin, Ochs and me, and convinced us that forming an all sax band was a compelling move. Steve Adams was soon to form Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet in Boston just a little later, also having heard the Lacy and Braxton pieces, and the World Saxophone Quartet.

Fast forwarding 4 decades: we performed Steve Lacy’s Saxophone Special a few times on the west coast with Henry Kaiser and Kyle Bruckmann, so the Rovas were excited to play this set of thorny pieces with an east coast crew, Eyal Maoz, guitar, and Chuck Bettis, electronics. We also had performed the Lacy pieces in a 25th anniversary celebration concert in 2002—with Ikue Mori, Nels Cline and Otomo Yoshihide. That anniversary outing was different from any of the recent performances—not only because there were 3 electronics players instead of just two—but also that I had overlaid Rova strategies and structures for the open sections of the pieces. Our current approach has been to play much more freely, with minimal direction. The Lacy version, which we’ve reverted to, is basic free improvisation with the spiky heads used as frames for group interaction.

[To continue to read Bruce Ackley's article click here.]


+1: Allison Miller - Life Music

Allison Miller and friends

I’ve been thinking about my earliest musical memories. What exactly pulled me in to living a life dedicated to music? What was my first ear candy? Why did I become an instrumentalist and composer? More importantly, I’ve been tossing around a question all artists must ask themselves—what is my voice? What am I saying with my art? And is my message being heard? I know that I was so heavily shaped by the music in my life. Music has a power like no other art. It is the soundtrack to life, the accompaniment to you becoming you. Music pulls at your heart and guts—it literally and emotionally moves you forward into your life, sometimes acting as a mirror and showing you exactly who you are.

First, I must say, I was lucky to come from a musical family and I am eternally grateful that, from a young age, my parents exposed me to so many different types of music: Classical, Jazz, Choral, R&B, Funk, Blues and Soul. I soaked it all in ravenously. Music excited me, soothed me, birthed my dreams and fantasies, forced my body to move, and had me running around beating on every piece of furniture in the house. I liked listening to vocalists but what really sparked my excitement were the instrumental parts cradling the melody and lyric. I would walk around singing the bass line of a tune, not the lyric. I’d get lost in the depths of what the instruments were saying. They weren’t telling me how I should feel—they were allowing me to feel.

My hungry ears would first take in the bass line and groove, then the melody, and finally the fairy dust sprinkles of pianos, keys, guitars, and horns. I would just sit back and dig the way all the instrumental parts worked together to make a perfect whole. Music was an alternate universe. It made me feel big and dream big. 

[To read Allison Miller's complete article click here.]


Rova Member Shows

Wednesday, March 2, 8:00 PM

Adams - Johnson - Perkis

Steve Adams - woodwinds
Max Johnson - bass
Tim Perkis - electronics

Also performing: Lisa Mezzacappa/Crystal Pascucci Duo

Berkeley Arts Festival
2133 University Avenue
Sliding scale $10-20


Wednesday, March 9, 8:00 PM

Play or Die 2016 #1
Larry Ochs - Jordan Glenn - Aram Shelton

(Opening for: Randy McKean's 'Bristle' with Lisa Mezzacappa, Cory Wright, Murray Campbell)

Center for New Music
55 Taylor Street
San Francisco


Sunday, March 13, 7:00 PM

Muted Cinema: A Maya Deren Tribute

An influential figure of avant-garde independent experimental cinema, Maya Deren (1917, Kiev, Ukraine - 1961, New York, US) explored identities, desires, and movements through a radical spatialization of the filmic language. Forming linear motions through non-linear spaces, Deren orchestrated with her evocative splices of celluloid to articulate the polarity of sameness and difference.

"...Never sacrificed visual drama and beauty to a stream of words...to the relentless activity and explanations of a plot..."

The dream-like states. Shadows, mirrors, self/other. The spectral lens of Maya Deren will be (re)visited through the prism of sonic responses.

Organized by Jeanie Aprille Tang + Andrej Hronco, the 2-hour show will include music by That Hideous Strength, featuring Rova’s Bruce Ackley.

Benjamin Ethan Tinker (Arp 2600)
Tania Chen (objects, keyboards)
David Cuetter (pedal steel & theremin)
Bruce Ackley (saxophones, clarinet)
Andy Strain (trombone)
Josephine Torio (hammer dulcimer & voice)

The Lab
2948 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103


Saturday, March 19, 8:00 PM


The John Beargrease Song Cycle by Robin Eschner - 2014 McKnight Foundation Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum. Performed by the vocal ensemble Take Jack, with accompanying musicians including Steve Adams.

The Glaser Center
547 Mendocino Ave.
Santa Rosa 94501

Tickets $15 - Purchase Now
Complete Details


Monday, April 4, 8:00 PM


Bruce will team up with Ross Hammond on guitar, and Scott Walton on bass for their first gig together!

Plus 2 other groups TBD

The Makeout Room
3225 Twenty Second St., near Mission St.
San Francisco


Sunday, May 1, 8:00 PM

Play or Die 2016 #3


Center for New Music
55 Taylor Street near Market
San Francisco




April 9, 8:00 PM

2478 Fletcher Drive
Los Angeles 90039

April 10, 7:30 PM

San Diego CA

April 11, 2:00 PM

California Institute of the Arts
24700 McBean Pkwy
Valencia, CA 91355

April 12, 7:30 PM

Tom's Place
3111 Deakon Street
Berkeley 94705

April 13, 8:00 PM

Center for New Music
55 Taylor Street
San Francisco

April 15, 8:00 PM

Good Shepherd Center
Seattle 98103


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.

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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