All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 (or more) and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help

152

ROVA: As Was

Derek Taylor By
Published:
Sign in to view read count
Saxophone quartets are no longer the radical innovation they once were. Groups like The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet and The Brooklyn Saxophone Quartet among others have appropriated the mantle originally carved out by ensembles like ROVA and the World Saxophone Quartet and in the process made the instrumentation a far more commonplace occurrence. But back in 1981 when As Was was first released ROVA and the WSQ were essentially the only ensembles on the block willing throw their creative chips into such a seemingly lopsided coffer. Comprised of four Bay-Area based multi-reedists, ROVA was arguably the more resolutely avant-garde of the two aggregations. Emphasizing a balance between intricate composition and effervescent improvisation the four reedsmiths were all about testing the preconceived strictures of both their instruments and their imaginations.

This set of five finely crafted blowing vehicles begins with the blustery “Daredevils” and segues swiftly into the soprano centered “Quill” where Ackley beats a twisting path through a thicket of peripheral horn voicings from his partners. “Escape From Zero Village” rockets forward under the power of two twining altos and belligerent tenor with soprano wailing tonal streaks above. The interlocking lines become so dense at points that careful concentration on the part of the listener is all but demanded in order to sort out exactly who’s saying what and when.

“Under the Street Where You Live,” a piece generated collectively by the group in honor of Albert Ayler, is another dizzying lattice of intersecting lines. Ochs, on tenor, works out of a precisely improvised tangle of twin sopranos raised by Voight and Ackley while Raskin blurts a second bulbous progression of textural honks on baritone. Spiraling through abstracted itinerary the piece never seems to set down into clearly linear territory.

The closing “Paint Another Take of the Shootpop,” which must have taken up most of the original album’s second side carries the dual dedication to Olivier Messiaen and Otis Redding, two composers whom by Och’s estimation “have in common a concern for the emotional power of beauty.” Spliced into five audibly seamed sections the piece moves from a solo tenor introduction through a series of trios and solos both written and improvised. The overall effect is symphonic in sound and conception moving from staunchly serious to whimsically lyrical and back again. Each man weaves an agile and brightly cast spell both in isolation and in unison, scrawling a collective scribble of lines that under close scrutiny makes complete sense. ROVA’s shared hold on the saxophone quartet market may have loosened some with the influx of so many new investors, but this welcome reissue makes abundantly clear that their cardinal stature, which remains ironclad today, was in fact firmly in place from the beginning.

Atavistic/Unheard on the web: http://www.atavistic.com


Track Listing: Daredevils/ Quill/ Escape From Zero Village/ Under the Street Where You Live/ Paint Another Take of the Shootpop.

Personnel: John Raskin- baritone, alto & soprano saxophones, clarinet; Larry Ochs- tenor, sopranino & alto saxophones; Andrew Voigt- alto, sopranino & soprano saxophones, flute; Bruce Ackley- soprano saxophone, flute. Recorded: April 1981, Berkeley, CA.

| Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Totally Spinning
Totally Spinning
Black Saint
2006
buy
Electric Ascension: An Interpretation of John Coltrane's Ascension
Electric Ascension:...
Atavistic Worldwide
2005
buy
Electric Ascension
Electric Ascension
Atavistic Worldwide
2005
buy
Tim Berne Tim Berne
saxophone
Ken Vandermark Ken Vandermark
saxophone
David S. Ware David S. Ware
sax, tenor
Art Ensemble Of Chicago Art Ensemble Of Chicago
band/orchestra
Julius Hemphill Julius Hemphill
sax, alto
Rashied Ali Rashied Ali
drums
World Saxophone Quartet World Saxophone Quartet
band/orchestra

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.