Rova | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The era of the sax quartet is officially over. Even its highest-profile outfit, the World Saxophone Quartet, almost never appears without accompaniment anymore. But the waning of the format--which in truth has weathered several waves of popularity dating back to the teens--hasn't discouraged the Bay Area foursome ROVA, the finest and most original group of its kind. For more than 20 years, Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, and Bruce Ackley (Steve Adams replaced Andrew Voight in 1988) have investigated the full range of possibilities the lineup presents, never following the faulty but common logic of mimicking a string quartet or playing at the normal roles of a standard jazz quartet. Instead, ROVA has sought out what is unique about reed music--and Ochs for one has found enough that he called in four more saxes for his Figure 8 project, yielding some of the densest overlays of microtonal horn sound ever recorded on 1994's Pipe Dreams (Black Saint). Though much of ROVA's music is original, written in the disparate styles of the individual composers in the group, it has regularly gone outside for material as well. The results range from a classic set of arrangements of Steve Lacy tunes, 1984's Favorite Street (Black Saint); to two recent volumes called The Works (Black Saint), which feature pieces by Tim Berne, Fred Ho, John Carter, and Jack DeJohnette; to the marvelous Bingo (Victo), which includes scores by Lindsay Cooper, Barry Guy, and longtime ROVA collaborator Fred Frith. In concert, expect a little of everything. Saturday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Dennis Letbetter.

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