This was a spectacular saxophone quintet. Zorn was the 5th. I didn't know the other 4, I believe they were all Bay Area folks. It was stellar. There were some people in the room who didn't realize they were going to an avant garde show and didn't like it. Some of them left. Some of them, much to my dismay, chose to have conversations during the set. There weren't many of these, but they all seemed to be sitting near me. I would say 70% of the room did know this was a possibility and seemed to enjoy themselves.
I loved it. There were a couple of little straight saxophones. I kept asking around to find out what they were, but no luck. One guy played a baritone sax and that little baby one. One guy had the baby and an alto. Zorn had his alto of course. I can't remember the other's instruments but it was all wonderful.
On Saturday, August 28 Zorn teams with ROVA Saxophone Quartet, the Bay Area's stalwart improvisors. ROVA has been at the forefront of experimental music since forming in San Francisco over 30 years ago. The Quartet (made up of Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs and JonRaskin) have been frequent collaborators of Zorn.
For over a quarter of a century, the Rova Saxophone Quartet has been acclaimed and widely recognized for its vital role in extending the horizons of today’s genre-bending music. With its potent mix of compositional creativity and stellar musicianship, Rova explores the synthesis of composition and collective improvisation in ways that challenge, excite and inspire. Positioning itself in a dynamic musical nexus, Rova has become an important leader in the music movement that has its roots in post-bop, free jazz, avant-rock, and 20th century new music as well as drawing inspiration from traditional and popular styles of Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States.
In noting Rova's role in innovatively developing the all-saxophone ensemble as "a regular and conceptually wide-ranging unit," The Penguin Guide to Jazz calls its music "a teeming cosmos of saxophone sounds" created by "deliberately eschewing conventional notions about swing [and] prodding at the boundaries of sound and space..." Likewise Jazz: The Rough Guide notes, "Highly inventive, eclectic and willing to experiment, Rova [is] arguably the most exciting of the saxophone quartets to emerge in the format's late '70s boom."
Inspired by a broad spectrum of musical influences - from Charles Ives, Edgard Varese, Olivier Messiaen, Iannis Xenakis and Morton Feldman to The Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman - Rova began, in 1978, writing new material, touring, and recording, including adventurous collaborations with such like-minded colleagues as guitarists Henry Kaiser and Fred Frith, saxophonist John Zorn, and Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo.
In its early years, Rova also shared the stage in collaborations with fellow trailblazers Kronos Quartet and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. A 1983 tour of the USSR and accompanying PBS documentary highlighted the first five years of Rova’s existence. In 1985, the Rova Saxophone Quartet incorporated as the not-for-profit organization Rova:Arts. Founding member Andrew Voigt left Rova in August 1988 and was replaced by Steve Adams. Otherwise, the personnel (Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin and Bruce Ackley) has remained the same throughout these 30-plus years, giving the group a consistency and sensitivity that has enabled its ever-evolving and highly nuanced explorations into new musical territory.