October 2006

1. Improv:21

2. Rova's new CD

3. Electric Ascension

4. Favorite Street: Larry Ochs

5. Upcoming events

HAPPY FALL! Prepare for some amped-up times. There are lots of exciting events and sounds stirring around Rova Central that we are sure you'll want to know about. Check out what's on our radar for October and beyond...

1.   Improv:21 -

Rova:Arts is pleased to present Improv:21, a series of "informances" on twenty-first century music that explore the connection between predetermined structure (composition) and performer interpretation (improvisation). Led by master improvisers and composers from the Bay Area and beyond, and hosted by critic and KPFA radio host Derk Richardson, Improv:21 programs look at the many ways of organizing improvisation through a shifting (i.e. "improvised") combination of onstage lecture and dialogue, musical demonstration and performance, and audience question-and-answer forum.

All Improv:21 informances are at 7:00 pm and take place at:

San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum (SFPALM)
401 Van Ness Avenue (@ McAllister)
Veterans Building , 4th Floor
415-255-4800 = ticket reservation line
or click here for tickets:

[Directions to SFPALM]

Produced by Rova:Arts, the series is now co-sponsored by San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum (SFPALM) in association with Other Minds. The John Zorn informance is presented in association with Cal Performances. [Click here] for more information on the Zorn concert on November 12: .

Fall Improv:21 Events:

October 30 - Ben Goldberg : the chair the fact

Nov. 13 - John Zorn : Q + A

December 4 - Cheryl E. Leonard: Playing the Wild

Ben Goldberg (Oct 30 - 7:00 pm), clarinetist, currently a member of Tin Hat and an expert on the music of Thelonious Monk and Steve Lacy, will be playing twice in this years SF JAZZ Festival: with Nels Cline's New Monastery on October 29, and with Myra Melford's The Same River Twice on November 4.  In between, he speaks with Derk Richardson.  He is a distinctive composer as well as a philosopher on improvised music and is sure to discuss these troubled times and the role of the contra alto clarinet. 

For more about the artists:

Ben Goldberg

John Zorn

Cheryl Leonard

Watch for details on 2007 Improv:21 informances with:

Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris , Wadada Leo Smith, Chris Brown, Tim Perkis, Bob Ostertag and others


2.   Rova's new CD -

Totally Spinning

Rova's new all-quartet CD, was released on the Italian label Black Saint a couple of months ago. Recorded during 1996-2002, the CD captures Rova spinning through the turn of the century. Some reviews are beginning to appear. Here's an early one. We'll include another next month just to remind you to buy it for yourself. And then we'll put a final one in the December issue, just to remind you to buy it for your friends for the holiday of your choice.

Out of idle curiosity I just looked in the Oxford Companion to Jazz, an 852-page tome edited by the estimable Bill Kirchner, to see how many references there were to the World Saxophone Quartet. Answer: four, spread over seven pages, including a central section of Peter Keepnews' survey of "Jazz since 1968." How many entries for the ROVA sax quartet or its individual members? Answer: none. Perhaps this is just a sign of how the WSQ has become primarily a matter of jazz history (even if the post-Hemphill band continues to plug away), whereas ROVA is if anything in its prime right now, spitting out discs like Resistance and Electric Ascension which continue to break new ground. Totally Spinning is a more modestly scaled offering than either of those albums, a post-Mingus exploration of blues and roots (actually, you could imagine WSQ fans responding to this one), though the Piranesian structural complexity is echt ROVA. Jon Raskin and Steve Adams composed all but two pieces and get most of the major solo space; Raskin's work on the baritone is particularly impressive - check out his Harry Carney/Pepper Adams balladry on "Cuernavaca Starlight (For Charles Mingus)", for instance, or the marvellous unaccompanied solo on "Let's Go Totally Spinning", in which he maintains both "lead voice" and "accompaniment" on a single horn in kind of a crazed internal dialogue. There's also a cheeky miniature by Fred Frith, "Kick It", and (most significantly, for those listeners interested in following ROVA's preoccupation with game-pieces and cued improvisation) two performances of "Radar", Larry Ochs' "arrangement" of ROVA's many cued-improv strategies. The second piece in particular shows how "Radar" permits themes and textures to be "stored" and later returned to: the piece includes a raucous exercise in neurotic repetition, a! round-r obin of face-pulling exercises, and a brief murmuring interlude; the coda rapidly juggles all three textures. My favourite piece, though, is Raskin's "It's a Journey, not a Destination", a long seriocomic narrative piece - the absurd contrast between Raskin's monstrous baritone and Bruce Ackley's prim soprano is put to good use - that eventually winds its way to a stately passacaglia. Totally Spinning seems to have been sitting around for a while, presumably because of Black Saint's difficulties in recent years - the first two tracks are previously unreleased material from the 1996 Bingo sessions, and the rest of the album dates from 2000 (according to Ochs - the liner notes get this wrong). It comes off almost as a holiday compared to the sterner restructuralism that populates ROVA's catalogue, but there's nothing wrong with that - and the musical intelligence and playing are as sharp as ever.- Nate Dorward // Paris Transatlantic

For listeners anxious to hear what we're up to now, we've just completed some wild sessions at Myles Boisen's Headless Buddha recording studio, documenting Jon Raskin 's omnidimensional Juke Box Suite. We hope to make a CD of the project available sometime next year.

3.   Electric Ascension -

Electric Ascension , first mounted by Orkestrova in February of 2003 continues to re-emerge and evolve. For more information on Rova's thinking about Electric Ascension check out Bill Shoemaker's interview with Rova (via email) on his web magazine: Point of Departure at:

For those of you in Europeor on the East Coast, there are upcoming Electric Ascension concerts you can catch in Paris , Rome and Philadelphia. Click here for further information.

Orkestrova, Lisbon Joaquim Mendes©2006


4.   Favorite Street : Larry Ochs -

Ochs' October recommendations:

CD: Ray Charles Sings Basie Swings. Released by Concord on October 3 rd, this is a true 21 st century recording. For details on the bionicity behind the music, you can go to or to any site selling the CD, but this is truly an instant classic. Charles sounds incredible!

DVD: Gloomy Sunday - Oh baby; pull out the handkerchiefs. You know I'm the guy recommending things like Bela Lugosi box sets, but here we have a perfectly acted and very moving Hungarian film taking place in Budapest and centered around a song. Namely "Gloomy Sunday," sung by (among others) Billie Holiday. The acting, in particular by the woman at the center of the film and by the actor representing all Germans, is superb. The whole story feels real, and maybe it was.

Website : Pandora - Interested in finding out about a musician or other musics related in some way to that artist. You could have a fun time at Pandora. Check it out.

Website: Paris Transatlantic. It's true: the CD review in this issue of the newsletter is from this webzine. But this isn't payola. Paris Transatlantic is actually a good place to learn about what's being released on CD not only in improvised music but also from "related" avant garde or non-commercial artists. And the articles are often worth checking out too.

The Read: Steve Lacy's Conversations. - Edited by Jason Weiss. Rova spent a lot of time around Lacy, so it's with great anticipation that I have just received this collection of interviews and "conversations" taking place from 1959- 2004. From the back cover: Conducted by writers, critics, musicians, visual artists, a philosopher and an architect, the interviews indicate the evolution of Lacy's career and thought." No; as you can tell I have yet to read it but I have full confidence that there will be plenty of pearls within this book. From Duke University Press.


5.   Upcoming events -

Nels Cline photo: Matthew Campbell

Rova's gonna be busy a little later in the season; nothing's happening for the quartet in October. (Ochs is in Europe with What We Live.) Mark your calendars for Rova with Nels Cline Singers at the Starry Plough on December 1, and just Rova for two sets at the San Francisco Musicians' Union Hall on December 10.

And, check out some of what's going on at the 24 th Annual SFJazz Festival this year:

24th Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival Highlights
This year's Festival includes a number of shows that Rova fans might want
to check out, including an amazing double-bill of Andrew Hill and Nels Cline

(performing Hill's music, as on his new CD, New Monastery); the return of Kamikaze Ground Crew featuring Doug Wieselman, Gina Leishman, Peter Apfelbaum, Steven Bernstein, and others; Myra Melford with "The Same River, Twice" a very rare appearance by Alice Coltrane, joined by Ravi Coltrane, Charlie Haden, and Roy Haynes; and Roswell Rudd
performing with Mongolian singer Badma Khanda and the Mongolian Buryat Band.  For complete festival info or to buy tickets, click here.

We'll listen for you next month and you do the same.