ROVA | Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center | Jazz | Chicago Reader

ROVA Free All Ages Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Tue., March 16, 7 p.m. 2010

Now in its fourth decade, ROVA is a bona fide institution: one of the first saxophone quartets in improvised music and almost certainly the longest-running, this San Francisco group has served as model and inspiration for innumerable like-minded ensembles. Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Bruce Ackley, and Steve Adams (who replaced Andrew Voigt in the late 80s) have developed a distinctive ROVA idiom, which combines advanced jazz language and elaborate contrapuntal architecture and draws on influences as varied as contemporary classical, postbop, and free jazz. Many of the group's recordings have had unifying themes: The Mirror World was explicitly inspired by the work of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage, and two separate albums have interpreted John Coltrane's Ascension. ROVA has increasingly collaborated with outside artists, from Russian free-jazz combo the Ganelin Trio to modern composer Alvin Curran, and sometimes expands into a big band called the OrkestROVA; the quartet has also joined the Nels Cline Singers to become the Celestial Septet, which just released its first album on New World. Raskin, ROVA's baritone-sax specialist, wrote all the music on 2007's The Juke Box Suite (Not Two), evoking a global collection of styles ranging from Brazilian choro to Detroit rock, but the group's instrumentation and approach make everything sound like ROVA first and foremost. "Juke Box Mambo," for example, abstracts the jumpy, syncopated rhythms of mambo into a popping, skeletal horn line, and mellows its brassy punch into something flowing and lyrical. As usual, the tunes rely on complex arrangements rather than glib vamps, and their steady development gives each soloist plenty to work with. Tonight the members of ROVA join four local improvisers—cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, electronicist Lou Mallozzi, guitarist Julia Miller (on multispeaker MIDI guitar), and bassist Jason Roebke—for two sets of free and structured improvisations. See also Wednesday. —Peter Margasak

Price: free

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