POSITION: The Stone NY.NY
SUBJECT: Rova Saxophone Quartet + Tom Rainey / Michael Sarin
Rova has been active, in nearly this exact lineup, since just after I was born. They are under-appreciated pillars of free jazz—helping carry the torch through the 80s. I first heard them through the Atavistic label's Unheard Music Series reissue of As Was. There was a point (since, that label coincided with some very personal epiphanies of improv and jazz) I owned every single album in the series.
This night, due to a blizzard bearing down on the city, they played to an audience barely larger than the band—I counted 10. They started with a full-throttle onslaught carrying echoes (for me) of times seeing the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, with it's big-lunged front-line. They didn't dwell there long—Rova's unique skills lie in a more nuanced multi-horn interplay.
While the entire night was engrossing—with special notice for Tom Rainey, who is an absolute delight to see play—the entire group never shone as bright as when they covered John Coltrane's Living Space. Rova has made a small business out of renditions of the late, great saxophonist's free jazz white whale of a song, Ascension, and thus nurtured a profound affinity with the master's work. Boy howdy, did it show. A third piece, African Tulips was an easy second-best. The last work in the set featured some instant-composing with hand-signals reminiscent of the more democratic portions of John Zorn's game pieces, that was fun to witness in it's rapid-fire interplay.
NOTES: Bruce Ackley, Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, Steve Adams: reeds; Tom Rainey, Michael Sarin: percussion