ROVA NEWS – October 2008

In this Newsletter:

» Upcoming Shows

» Ochs' Sax & Drumming Core Tour

» Favorite Street: Larry Ochs' Seminal Influences

» Improv:21 on RadiOM

» San Francisco Jazz Festival

» Rova:Arts

Evan Parker will play the Finger Palace this month
photo: Caroline Forbes

Rova hits the stage early this month on the heels of a great weekend in the recording studio in September. And, in the spirit of this election season, Rova will participate in Tom Djll's Mockracy. Improvisers Charlotte Hugg and Evan Parker will be in the Bay Area from Europe, and SFJazz has some must see shows for their 26th annual fall festival running over the next two months. Check it all out below.

  • Upcoming Shows [go to article]
  • Ochs' Sax & Drumming Core Tour [go to article]
  • Favorite Street: Larry Ochs' Seminal Influences I got tipped off during the summer by an excited comrade that Mosaic Records was collecting all of composer Anthony Braxton's records for Arista Records, made in the 1970's, into one CD Box-Set for release in October; folks: that's now!...
    [read more]
  • Improv:21 on RadiOM Thanks to recent support from the Zellerbach Family Fund, Improv:21 will resume in early 2009. Presented by Rova:Arts and curated by Larry Ochs, this series of interviews, or 'informances', has offered Bay Area audiences intimate views into the creative lives of almost 2 dozen innovative artist over the past 5 years.
    [read more]
  • San Francisco Jazz Festival This year's San Francisco Jazz Festival digs into the experimental side of jazz with four unique shows.
    [read more]
  • Rova:Arts
    [read more]

Upcoming Shows

Friday, October 3, 8:00
Rova — Eye Music for Ears, Part 3
The Berkeley Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street
Info: (510) 845-1350
Admission $15 ($10 for HSC members and Seniors)

The concert will focus on recently recorded Raskin and Adams pieces composed using graphic notation—compositional systems that employ images and symbols outside traditional music notation to convey the composer's intentions. Including a good measure of the graphically notated pieces along with other Rova originals, the quartet performance will explore fresh methods to mine the fertile ground of improvised music, finding new correspondences between composed and open forms. The Berkeley Hillside Club offers a rare opportunity to hear Rova in an optimal acoustic environment.

Saturday, October 4, 9:00 PM
Jen Baker CD release party
Blue 6
3043 24th Street @ Treat Street
San Francisco
Set 1: Solo Trombone: Lyrical Vibrations
Set 2: Duos with Fred Frith, Liz Allbee and Jon Raskin
[read more on MySpace]

Saturday, October 11, 8:00 PM
Jon Raskin/Liz Albee Duo
Phil Gelb's Dinner and Concert Series
[contact Phil for more information]

Sunday, Oct 12, 8:00 PM
Jon Raskin performs with sfSound
ODC Dance Commons
351 Shotwell Street
San Francisco

Local percussionist Gino Robair performs Potluck Percussion (You bring it, he'll play it - Guaranteed!) and presents a realization of his improv-opera I, Norton with sfSound augmented by laptops and voices. The program also includes two giant works from the 1980's: Gérard Grisey'sTalea (1986) and the U.S. premiere of Mathias Spahlinger's Aussageverweigerung / Gegendarstellung: Zwei Kontra-Kontexte für Doppelquartett (1981), in addition to the premiere of a new work written for sfSound by local composer Erik Ulman.

Friday and Saturday, October 18 and 19, 8:00 pm
The Return of Tom Djll's Mockracy:
Mocktober Surprise
Broken Politics, Broken Constitution, Fractured Discourse

John Duykers • Dean Santomieri
Rova Saxophone Quartet • Brassiosaurus
John Shiurba's 6x6 • Tim Perkis
Live video projection
composed & directed by Tom Djll

Oakland Metro Theater
630 3rd Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
(near Jack London Square)

Admission: $20 general - $15 students/seniors
Info: 831-320-1489 or 831-423-3050

Mockracy is the musical satire event of the season!
The Mocktober Surprise is an audiovisual farcical history tour through America's media jungle, populated by political animals and televised egos. With sections of the orchestra in pitched battle, a mad President/King and operatic accoutrements, live narration and interactive video and electronics, Mockracy is a saturation bombing of the senses that will leave you in shock and awe.
[more information]

Sunday, October 26, 2:30 PM
Larry Ochs' KIHNOUA
Jazz at the Intersection @ the DeYoung Museum
Golden Gate Park

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco

Larry Ochs: saxophones and compositions
Scott Amendola: drums and electronics
Joan Jeanrenaud: cello
Dohee Lee: vocals

Charlotte Hug double bowing her viola

October 3-5
Charlotte Hug in the Bay Area
Charlotte Hug is a musician (voice and viola), composer, and visual artist living in Zurich and London.She is a member of the London Improvisers Orchestra and collaborates with other composers as well as with the Swiss Centre for Computer Musik. She improvises, both freely and conceptually, with such performers as John Butcher, John Edwards, Phil Minton, Evan Parker and Elliott Sharp. In May 2009 she will appear as part of Rovaté 09.

For now, check out the following shows:

Friday, October 3, 7:30 PM
MY Street
Swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery Street
San Francisco

A conceptual exhibit environment, My Street pairs up Hug's Son-Icons, three-dimensional, highly graphic musical scores, with the work of Bay Area photographer Kirstyn Russell. Hug will then perform "Anderwelten" (Other Worlds), a new score for viola and voice in which the musician directly interacts with the physicality of her Son-Icons and of Swissnex San Francisco's performance space. (The exhibit will be shown at swissnex until October 24th, and can be visited by appointment.)

Saturday, October 4, 8:00 PM
NEXMAP Binary Cities #5:
Sonic Forecast and Sonogram

1310 Mission Street near 9th Street
San Francisco

Inspired by the Myanmar (Burmese) anti-government protests led by students and Buddhist Monks in September 2007, Sonic Forecast integrates new and traditional performance practice in a seamless tapestry of timbres, resonance and spontaneous response between live musician, pre-recorded viola and manipulations, live video and stocked images.

Charlotte Hug viola & voice
Linda Bouchard live electronics (SF/Montreal)
Luis Maurette live video (SF/Buenos Aires)

Sunday, October 5th, 3:00 PM
Charlotte Hug:
Other Worlds of the String Instruments

Center for New Music & Audio Technologies (CNMAT)
1750 Arch Street

Ms. Hug will discuss her work in an informal talk, including her site-specific musical performances and compositions, graphic scores and room-scores, with a special focus on enhanced string techniques.

October 12 to November 22
Woody Woodman Presents
XXXth WoodTennial
Into The Maelstrom

The Woody Woodman Finger Palace
903 Cedar Street

Admission: See website
Finger Line: 510-528-1023

The WoodTennial highlights important treasures of the Bay Area improv scene, Woody Woodman's Finger Palace, a magical venue hosting very special events for the past 3 decades; and the truly remarkable artist Greg Goodman. The several week series will present Greg and friends in just the right setting, and will include two evenings with Evan Parker. Check out the Finger Palace website for complete concert and ticket information. Woody would want you to read between the lines, or read the lines twice.
Ochs' Sax & Drumming Core Tour

Larry Ochs' Sax & Drumming Core
Featuring Scott Amendola and Don Robinson, Drums
with special guests:
Satoki Fujii (piano and synthesizer) & Natsuki Tamura (trumpet)

October 28: Los Angeles
The Hammer Museum
7 PM (one set)

October 30: Albuquerque
Outpost Performance Space
7:30 PM

November 1: Seattle
Seattle Art Museum
8 PM

October 29: San Diego
8 PM

October 31: Denver
First Unitarian Church of Denver
8 PM

Produced by Creative Music Works

November 2: Vancouver, BC
The Western Front
8 PM

Produced by Coastal Jazz

Sorry: No San Francisco date.
Larry Ochs & the Drumming Core
Favorite Street: Larry Ochs

Anthony Braxton observes an Adolph Saxe creation
I got tipped off during the summer by an excited comrade that Mosaic Records was collecting all of composer Anthony Braxton's records for Arista Records, made in the 1970's, into one CD Box-Set for release in October; folks: that's now! The news came at an interesting moment: I was poring over the DVD extras of Julie Taymor's most recent film work – Across the Universe. That's Taymor's film-musical dedicated to the music of the Beatles. And I was musing over the fact that the Beatles were, much to my surprise, a key influence, if not on my personal work, at least on my outlook on life; frankly that did surprise me. So on this take of Favorite Street, I'm going to direct you towards some media that can give you some insight into influences from the sixties and seventies upon my own and Rova's work, past and present, my own playing/thinking, and the creative process in general.

Here's what I'm recommending to all of you with all your free time:
1. CD: Wadada Leo Smith: Kabell Years 1971-1979
2. CD: The Complete Arista Recordings Of Anthony Braxton (8CDs).
3. CD: The Art Ensemble of Chicago: Baptizum // People in Sorrow // Les Stance et Sophie
4. CD: Steve Lacy: Scratching the Seventies
5. DVD: Julie Taymor's film: Across the Universe
6, CD: Cecil Taylor: Dark to Themselves and Conquistador
7. Online reading: Synergetics by Buckminster Fuller
8. finally: DVD: Musician, featuring Ken Vandermark

Braxton, Lacy, and Mitchell
Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy and Roscoe Mitchell were probably the saxophone players I was most inspired by in the early seventies. I'm not saying I sound like any of them, but their individual attitudes (or perhaps my perception of their attitudes of "refusing to compromise" on their art, playing music they believed in) was something I couldn't get enough of. Some of the records now in this box set of Braxon's from Arista, I played many, many times: New York, Fall '74 and Creative Music Orchestra especially. And, of course, seeing all these cats play in the Bay Area or in Paris (in Lacy's case) early on was very important. For me as a saxophonist, a "key solo" was Roscoe's on The Art Ensemble of Chicago's recording made live in Ann Arbor called Bap-tizum. I transcribed that one; and I also copped his mouthpiece, which I learned about from Andrew Voigt when he moved here in the late '70's and joined Rova. But what you learn as you get more into it is that the players who you are most attracted to are those whose voices are close to yours, as opposed to the other way around. That is: the whole point of making music is to discover your inner voice and to allow that inner person the leeway, the trust, to take you out. Music making, at its highest level, has the same goal/outcome as meditation: to discover the way out into the aether where you do no wrong and your energy is replenished even as you (in music's case) put out that very energy. The beauty of making music is that as it takes the player to heaven it can also actively transport some of the listening audience along with you. (In fact there are times when people in the audience lift off further than the musicians, but in that case then we are more like the booster rocket for the audience-as-payload heading to Mars...) Thinking of Lacy too right now, whose composerly influence was primary, I recommend the CD compilation Scratching the Seventies. I loved this period of Lacy's, quite likely because the '70s is when I discovered his music. But it is true that Lacy in the '70s combined artistic attention to detail with wildly uncontrolled experimentation in his music, or in his bands' interpretations of his music, and this led often to exhilarating results that happened less often in later decades.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago
The AEC was perhaps the key band for me in this period. While I always loved Braxton's music at that time, the Art Ensemble's palette included a folk element that to this day I am attracted to, and I have really enjoyed including recently – but in my own way - in music for bands like Kihnoua and Larry Ochs Sax + Drumming Core as well as in some Rova pieces like the one dedicated to Albert Ayler written for the septet of Rova plus Nels Cline Singers... So the Art Ensemble had the rigor of Mitchell's ideas combined, I think, with influences and musical elements from the other composers in the band. Their first sighting for me in 1973 in Berkeley (in an amazing double bill with a Charles Mingus band) was a major confirmation of ideas I was then focusing on, as well as confirming other ideas I hadn't even had yet but were waiting there for me in the concert hall that night—ideas I still grapple to control. CDs of theirs that I still listen to occasionally, but that I listened to many, many times and can still heartily recommend include (but would not be limited to): People in Sorrow; Les Stance et Sophie. Taken together with Bap-tizum you get a very good picture of this band from these 3 recordings.

And as long as we're on the subject of AACM influences, my first sighting of Wadada Leo Smith came not too long after the above mentioned musics, and you can actually hear yet another pioneer playing his 70's music on the fantastic Tzadik release from two years ago called Kabell Years 1971-1979. Kabell was Smith's own CD label, and his self-releasing of his music had to be one of the inspirations for my starting up Metalanguage Records in 1978.

Mr. Taylor
Then, a thank you to Henry Kaiser for recently suggesting I listen to the Cecil Taylor CD Dark to Themselves for the first time in decades. Yes Henry, this could make for an interesting sequel to Electric Ascension. Rova produces special projects each year, and many of them involve Orkestrova which is the 4 Rova sax players plus whatever expanded instrumentation we take on to fulfill a certain musical goal. Cecil Taylor was someone I discovered and seriously checked out in 1969 while working at the student-run station WXPN at University of PA in Philadelphia. I did a blues show, but the jazz titles were all there in the same part of the LP shelves, and one night I pulled Cecil Taylor out. At first it was all about the energy. My favorite music was rock, but bands like (the early version of) Fleetwood Mac and the Stones were directing me to the original blues musicians. But the raw energy of rock led me to immediate interest in Taylor and Sun Ra (who played a lot in Philly then), once I got turned onto them. The Taylor LP I was particularly into in 1969 was Unit Structures. It's funny for me to think that at the time, I heard no detail in this music; it was the energy I heard. Whereas at this point I can hear every detail, every note. Dark to Themselves came out later, but the ensemble play and the lines Taylor has the horns playing etc. are inspired and might be a lot of fun to reimagine for Orkestrova.

Julie Taymor: Across the Universe
The Beatles are huge for anyone who grew up in the sixties, and just about anyone who grew up after the sixties. It's funny to say that because, by the late sixties, I wasn't interested in them much anymore. I was a Rolling Stones fan. And I would not have expected even now that I would, in the year 2008, be open to the idea of revisiting their music. I'd pretty much lost my appreciation for them since the release of the film Yellow Submarine, which I enjoyed at the time, but after that I stayed away. So I went to the Taymor film because I love her film-making, (...if you never saw Titus, based on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus... a wondrous film experience is there waiting for you...), and there are certain film-makers I will check out every time in theaters because, while DVDs are convenient, I still prefer seeing a film on a big screen. (Films on IPods? I don't get that at all.) Taymor's film was really enjoyable in the theatre. But I wrote off my response mostly to the need I had that particular day to sit in a dark room and absorb. Could have been any movie. However I did admit to myself that those Beatles could really write music. The lyrics were very touching in part, and the music writing was revealed in a very new way by this film. Or so I thought at the time.

Buying the DVD in this case was kind of a revelation. Being in a movie theater with the big screen in the dark will always be my favorite way to see film, but the DVD medium has many positive aspects to it. First of all, after you watch a film all the way through the first time, then after that it's absolutely fantastic to see it in small increments. The best movies are like books. Too much detail going by for one sitting, at least in serious concentration. Across the Universe is not a really deep film in most ways. But one thing really comes across on DVD: Taymor has really captured the spirit of the '60s, especially the 60's on the East Coast. Now the storyline almost doesn't matter in this film; it is after all a musical. But the underlying tone of the film is a direct hit throughout and really very moving. The combination of the Beatle's naïve optimism and the true (and frightening) uncertainty of the times were captured incredibly well by the Beatle's lyrics and music, at least as framed by the film. So I'm not sure which came first, the music or the frame, but in the end I was very moved, and if you lived through those days, I think you will be too. In any case there are minutes throughout out the film of breathtaking editing or montage that are worth sitting through all the rest of the film. But "the rest" is all music, and fantastically done for the most part.

The DVD extras are fantastic. Taymor does the commentary herself, and for once a director takes the job seriously and really gives you a lot of information about how she thinks and works. There are also some well-done docs on the choreography in the film, and in the end I learned a lot about making movies. Finally the out-takes of the music scenes are worth the cost of the DVD by themselves; perhaps my favorite was the out-takes segment of Eddie Izzard doing his Mr. Kite scene. He's improvising the vocalise as he goes along... "structured improvisation" (of a kind) at its best. Watching his raw takes, and then going back to the film to see the finished product: illuminating...

Buckminster Fuller

The only person from the sixties more wildly optimistic than the Beatles or Anthony Braxton was Buckminster Fuller. Fuller (1895 – 1983) was just the subject of a major retrospective at The Whitney Museum in NYC. But he wasn't an artist per se. He "was an architect, engineer, philosopher, futurist, inventor of the famous geodesic dome," and inspirer of many, including Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalogue; simply a brilliant creative mind. When I first moved to California, I lived for a few years in the wilderness of Mendocino County; we built a cabin, but there were geodesic domes on that same property, purchased through that very Whole Earth Catalogue. And the geodesic dome was Fuller's idea... His philosophy was at that time quite in contrast to how many of us felt, how many of us saw the USA and the world. He went from university to university at that time speaking to thousands of people at a time in 4-hour monologues about "Spaceship Earth." He felt at the most basic level that governments preached scarcity in order to divide, when in fact there was (and continues to be) more than enough for everyone to be comfortable on the planet. He tried to come up with innovative designs that would do more with less.

I've been thinking about Fuller a lot in the past 2 years, trying to draw from the spirit of Fuller's overall outlook in designing a process for the next Rova collaboration: Rovaté 2009 (May 22 and 23, 2009 to take place at Kanbar Hall at Jewish Community Center San Francisco). Rova will collaborate with some great musical improvisers as well as the media and digital-animation artist Lillevan, a true innovator from Berlin, Germany, who enjoys creating film works "spontaneously," much as Rova creates music. His film-making includes improvisation, using images and found footage he has compiled for the specific project. So, my mentioning Fuller also acts as a heads up for these May San Francisco performances. More on those shows in one of the next newsletters. For now: you can go online to read Synergetics and take a long look around at all the writing in a book long out of print. Some of Fuller's books like Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth are being reprinted now. But I think this one, read in small doses, casts up a lot of food for thought.

Ken Vandermark
Finally, off the theme of "early inspirers," I can recommend a film that I just saw featuring the Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark: a one hour documentary called "Musician." It's one in a series of documentaries by Daniel Kraus called "The Work Series." Shot in a cinema verité style, it really will give you a realistic version of what it's like to be an improvising musician trying to get by at this time, focusing on touring in all its grime and glory as well as on working up the actual music.


RadiOM – Improv:21 series archived online

Thanks to recent support from the Zellerbach Family Fund, Improv:21 will resume in early 2009. Presented by Rova:Arts and curated by Larry Ochs, this series of interviews, or 'informances', has offered Bay Area audiences intimate views into the creative lives of almost 2 dozen innovative artist over the past 5 years. Our next newsletter should have the rundown of who's coming up in the series.

Want to sample some of the earlier Improv:21 informances?
We will be uploading one show every two months to (the web site of Other Minds) until the entire series is online. There is a lot of information in each show.

Here's what's available at the moment:
Nels Cline
Fred Frith
Carla Kihlstedt
Gino Robair
Miya Masaoka
Oliver Lake
Ned Rothenberg

To get news from Other Minds [click here] .


October 3 – November 9
The 26th Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival

This year's San Francisco Jazz Festival digs into the experimental side of jazz with four unique shows. First, a rare U.S. appearance by tenor saxophone firebrand Archie Shepp, on October 23. Cecil Taylor plays a solo Sacred Space concert at Grace Cathedral October 24. Later that same weekend (October 26) is a solo performance by pianist Marilyn Crispell at the intimate Gould Theatre. Wayne Horvitz's genre-collapsing Gravitas Quartet will close out the Festival in the same room November 9. The Festival runs from October 3-November 9. Tickets are available now at or 866-920-JAZZ (5299).

Contribute to Rova:Arts

Formed in 1977, Rova's been in a state of continual artistic renewal for over 3 decades. 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 often are reproduced in other parts of the world, thereby bringing the work to a broader audience. Also, many Rova:Arts events have been recorded and enthusiastically celebrated.

Rova:Arts has produced the Improv:21 series, providing a forum for innovative musicians like John Zorn, Fred Frith, Oliver Lake, Miya Masaoka, Roscoe Mitchell, Zeena Parkins and others to share their artistic visions and unique paths to creativity, with you the audience, in an intimate setting.

[Click here] to find out more and to Join Rova:Arts. Thanks for being part of the art.