“Coffee break’s over” and Rova’s back in the shed to prep for local concerts throughout the fall, a special recording project in September, a November tour of Europe, and our January, 2016 residency at the Stone in New York. We’re also doing some research in advance of a 2017 collaboration with We Players and inkBoat. Stay tuned for news on our latest pipedream. The band is revisiting several legacy (quartet and commissioned) pieces for inclusion in upcoming sets, and we encourage you to check out local shows to hear a spectrum of works that spans 4 decades.
We’re happy to spread the word about an upcoming mega-show produced by our friend and colleague, Lisa Mezzacappa. See details below.
We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Henry Kaiser and Kyle Bruckmann again to tackle Steve Lacy’s seminal work for sax quartet and electronics, Saxophone Special. In 1974, Lacy and Steve Potts traveled from their then home base, Paris, to give a concert with Evan Parker and Trevor Watts (on saxes), Derek Bailey on guitar, and Dutch electronics musician, Michel Waiswisz. The one-off concert was a set of Lacy compositions penned for the occasion. The subsequent release of the recording made a big impact on Rova players 3 years before we formed. Along with Anthony Braxton’s saxophone quartet composition released on his New York, Fall, 1974 LP, and the first World Saxophone Quartet LP from 1977, the Lacy recording offered a glimpse into the possibilities of creating a body of work for improvising sax quartet.
Henry Kaiser has been a perennial collaborator with Rova since 1978, and Kyle Bruckmann and Rova have met in many combinations in recent years—notably when he joined up with Kaiser and Rova in 2014 to perform Saxophone Special. This music is fun, and the concert will be followed by a recording date at Fantasy Studios a couple of days later.
Rova November European tour
Rova European tour will at least run from November 8 in Antwerp to November 17. Looking forward to five straight concerts at some of our favorite cities in Austria. As many details as we have can be seen on the Rova calendar. Still expecting a few more concerts in Europe. So stay tuned to the Rova calendar at our website.
Rova in NY at the Stone January 19-24, 2016
Rova plays in New York City from January 17-24. From Tuesday January 19-24 Rova will be “in residence” at The Stone. The Stone is curated by John Zorn. He has requested a retrospective of sorts for the first 38 years of Rova music, featuring compositions and commissions spanning the years 1979 to 2015. Plus there will be collaborative concerts including the rarely seen Rova-Zorn Quintet on the first night of the residency. Check “The Stone Calendar” and scroll down January 2016 listings for complete details.
Rova Channeling Coltrane in New York, January 17, 2016
Preceding that week, on Sunday January 17, Rova will be Channeling Coltrane once again, presenting Electric Ascension at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. An incredible cast of musicians are lined up for this show, but as the show is not yet 100% confirmed by LPR management, we will save that list for the November edition of On ROVA’S RADAR.
We anticipate that The LPR show will also celebrate the release of Channeling Coltrane – a beautiful media release containing Bluray, DVD and music-only CD documenting the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival performance of Electric Ascension in Canada. Truly an instant classic, beautifully filmed with 5 cameras and (on the Bluray) it can be heard in 5.1 stereo sound. Directed and produced by Bay Area filmmaker John Rogers.
More on all these items in our November communiqué, when we are closer to 2016 and feel confident to divulge more details.
Rova records No Favorites - an homage to Butch Morris in July 2015
Rova and the 2015 version of OrkestRova recorded a CD’s worth of music at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley on July 1, two days after a fantastic concert in San Francisco. OrkestRova 2015 – a power trio, string quartet and Rova, all playing together in a large semi-circle – recorded three extended works, dedicating the CD to Butch Morris; a shout-out to the spirit of his life’s work in conduction and improvised music. All the compositions include formal structures of various kinds as well as improvisation, with visual cues influencing the sounds and the arc of the music. Special thanks to Gino Robair for conducting Ochs’ piece called “Nothing Stopped but a Future.” And thanks to all the guest musicians: Christina Stanley, Tara Flandreau, Alex Kelly, Scott Walton, Jason Hoopes, Jordan Glenn and John Shiurba. Played with great spirit!! Rova of course delivered both in the playing and in the composing. Look for this CD releasing in late 2016, with generous support from San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music.
2016 looks to be busy as well. Our ongoing collaboration with the dancers of inkBoat will receive a boost when We Players joins both organizations and we all begin to prepare a piece revolving around the Beowulf myth. 2016 will be John Coltrane’s 90th birthday year, and it will be the 50th anniversary year of the release of Coltrane’s Ascension in 1966. Some festivals and cities in USA have been in discussion with us for performances of Electric Ascension. In Europe as well.
Join us for this rare collaboration on September 16:
Wednesday, September 16, 8 PM
Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special
Forty years after the groundbreaking performance of Lacy's Saxophone Special, Rova, Henry Kaiser, and Kyle Bruckmann present a re-imagining of this seminal work for saxophone quartet, electric guitar and electronics—ground zero for the formation of Rova in 1977.
Hot off the Press: Out right now in movie theaters is the film Phoenix. A perfect gem of a movie with some of the most concise and understated acting jobs you’ll ever see, probably thanks to the director and actors wanting a certain tone or feeling to be there as you walk out of the theater. Anything else I say would be a “spoiler.” Or might discourage you from going because you might think “Oh, I’ve seen that kind of film before.” But I will say one thing: it’s only when the film actually ends - where the director ends the story and how it ends - that you realize what you’ve just experienced. Great one.
I have 2 CDs of my own coming out in the 2015-16 season that include 5 pieces dedicated to film-makers. Steve Lacy used to dedicate most of his music to musicians, and in fact I’ve done a bit of that myself. But since 2005 when I dedicated a double CD to Stan Brakhage, I’ve been primarily dedicating extended works to film-makers. My dedications are, I guess, primarily ones of pure enthusiasm, and the desire to turn on music heads to certain film makers, or simply to acknowledge ones (that everyone probably already knows) that have influenced me to be an artist, or stay with it, or both. Not to mention giving me ideas about transition and continuity, which is critical to music. But that’s just half the reason for these dedications. The other half is that I still think music can exist on its own, and one of the great things about music is that the visual aspect is not necessary to enjoying it, but you do still have to be able to see it in your mind in order to hear the music. I don’t want to use the word “understand” as in “understand the music.” Too loaded. Plus, we have way too many politicians trying to get us to understand “the way things should be.” There just isn’t one way. The beauty of music is that there isn’t one way to hear it. So I dedicate music to film-makers to primarily encourage the listener to close their eyes and imagine their own film. I dedicate to film-makers whom I would love to have imagine a film for my music - a “film-accompaniment” to the music - flipping the traditional role: where musicians are asked to make music that works for a film. I think there would be an amazing amount of wild films out there if the music came first.
Most of what I write about here are documentaries or films about musicians in different dramatic situations, but I think in all these films, you could say that the music came first.
A beautifully shot film directed by the African director Abderrahmane Sissako (works out of Mali), juxtaposing humanity in all its strengths and weaknesses with the horror of an unbending ideology gone completely insane - at least by my standards and the standards of the film-maker. Wow...so many scenes in this movie resonated and repeated themselves in my mind over and over for days after seeing it, scenes including beautiful brave individuals standing up to a band of ditto heads who unfortunately not only have all the power but all the guns and none of the ability to see what they are doing. If you see one film this year, this might be that film, the one you should watch. It's a movie that when described might seem like "it's obvious" and "I already know about that". But it's so much more than the sum of its parts, and so many of the parts are still with me weeks later. Brilliant; haunting; and somehow uplifting, even as it wants to be and is a real warning of one particular horror brewing in our midst. And the interview with the film-maker on DVD is a must-see too. A couple of great scenes including music as well.
Love and Mercy Bill Pohland, 2015
Beach Boys’ Magnum Opus
There’s never been a better fiction film (based on facts apparently) that gets at the process of creating music than “Love and Mercy”, a bio-pic on Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. This film is divided into two stories: that of Brian Wilson as an older man, post-fame era, trying to get his life back together, with John Cusack playing Wilson; and that of the early Beach Boys, but primarily focused on the scene around them, and especially the making of what came to be their most respected recording, a Brian Wilson studio-creation called Pet Sounds. Musicians are always attempting to talk about how music gets made, knowing we can’t really “explain” the process because so much of it is in-the-moment inspiration, and that’s the beauty of this film: it gets that. It lets you see that there’s an un-nameable component to creating art that just is, and needs to be made room for. The actor playing the young Brian Wilson is Paul Dano, and he is spectacular in this role. And on top of that you get to re-listen to a lot of great music.
The Wrecking Crew Denny Tedesco, Danny Tedesco, 2015
The best illustration of how great Love and Mercy actually is? Watch that, then watch the music documentary called The Wrecking Crew, all about the Los Angeles studio musicians who backed Brian Wilson as he was literally inventing most of this music in their studio. These men and women also were the backing musicians for many, many famous pop artists in the sixties who you’ve heard of, or loved if you were a young person growing up then, as I was. It VERY interesting, totally worth watching. Many of these studio musicians ended up having their own great solo careers later on. But then they really can’t replicate how the art gets created the way that a fiction movie can, given the right script, actor and director. But I absolutely recommend this movie to you.
Muscle Shoals Greg 'Freddy' Camalier, 2015
Similarly, Muscle Shoals, another documentary about backing musicians, this time from Alabama, that has more drama to its back story, and an equally great set of music stars to show us on film. Stars who came first from New York in the fifties and later from all over to play music down in this backwoods bayou town. The stories told on film – wonderful. This one suffers just a bit from trying to make heroes out of the studio producers and musicians. But in the end I liked this one, I think, more than The Wrecking Crew. But then The Wrecking Crew was possibly more essential to see. I’m saying “see them both”, but after you watch Love and Mercy.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Liz Garbus, 2015
In the end: an ultra-fascinating story, and includes a satisfying amount of great Nina Simone footage onstage and elsewhere. She was known on tour to be a troubled and troubling presence; “typical prima donna.” Don’t believe it. The story behind her life explains all that, and justifies her attitude too. I left off watching this with one thought: so sorry I never had the chance to see her perform live.
Currently all three of the docs above can be streamed from NetFlix.
Also very much worth checking out:
Andrey Zvyagintsey, 2014
Zvyagintsey, is the director of another favorite film of mine, Elena). In both films Andrey shows that he understands and loves the craft of filmmaking. He takes somber topics and draws you into that world, whether you want to go or not. Leviathan is a film whose outcome is all too real; the result is what you could imagine happening in real life. The film is blessed with a cast of fabulous actors; there isn't one weak link. Even the children in the film are actors of high quality. In the special features accompanying the DVD we see just how adept Zvyagintsey is with the kiddos, convincing one young boy to do a scene over, when the child is very certain that his first take was just fine.
Ex Machina (2015)
I saw this in a movie theater – if I had the time and it were possible, I would always see films in a good theater, at least once. But this one should be great on small screen. It's primarily a thought provoking film rather than visual action-film. Sci-fi heads will love it.
The Salt of the Earth
Wim Wenders, 2015
Well, I saw this in a theater too. I have to say, I’m not sure how this one will translate to the small screen. But the pure intensity of this amazing documentary might be best seen in small amounts, which of course is perfect for that small screen. This is an inspired documentary about an inspiring photographer. Here’s the rap from IMDb: “For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet's beauty.” I’m not sure this is yet available as DVD. If you own BluRay, you would have to see this one on that. If you’re wondering how a film about a photographer could be better than actually looking at the photographer’s work in books or in a musuem, watch this movie for the inspiring answer. (Wenders is one of the film directors that gets a piece dedicated to him on my upcoming CD for Tzadik called The Fictive Five.)
The Thin Red Line
Terrence Malick, 1998
A friend of mine and I were talking about films recently, and he said he would love to see my top 25 film list. I don’t have one, and it wouldn’t be very easy to make, but I imagine for sure that this would be on it. I just watched it again recently, looking for films to give to a very young man I know who is considering solving his life problems by joining one of our armed services. This is maybe the greatest anti-war film of all time. (Along with “Phoenix” mentioned much earlier.) And it is so much a pro-humanity film. And no, I didn’t dedicate any of the pieces on my CDs to Terrence Malick. But he is one of my personal favorite directors, and I think this is his greatest film. And this is a great one to see on the small screen. A non-spoiler suggestion: watch the first hour or so, up to the point when our main characters land on Guadalcanal. Take a long break. Watch the next hour or more as the famous battle of Guadalcanal takes place. When the soldiers are back relaxing at the end of it, take another long break and then watch the concluding 45 minutes or so.
Tania Chen - piano, tabletop objects, etc.
Matt Davignon – drum machines, electronics
Jon Raskin – Saxophones, electronics, etc.
VERNACULAR VISIONS 22 is a public monthly slideshow series of found 35mm photo slides, curated and presented by Justin Rhody. More about the slide show Vernacular Visions slide is on Justin Clifford Rhody's website.
Special Announcement: Lisa Mezzacappa Presents Glorious Ravage
Thursday October 1 & Friday October 2, 8 PM
Bassist and composer Lisa Mezzacappa, “one of the most imaginative figures on the Bay Area creative jazz scene” (San Jose Mercury News), presents the world premiere of her expansive new work Glorious Ravage, a multi-media song cycle for a large ensemble of virtuoso California improvisers with new films by four Bay Area experimental film and video artists. Glorious Ravage is inspired by the adventures and writings of Victorian lady explorers, who trekked to the wildest parts of the earth, to escape, to discover, and to lose themselves.
Already a fan? Encourage your Facebook friends to become Rova:Arts fans.
You can stay in touch with all Rova:Arts activities through our website, subscribing to Rova's Radar, 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.
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.