Friday, March 19, 2010

Rova Saxophone Quartet

Gelvin Noel Gallery
Krannert Art Museum
Champaign, Illinois
March 18, 2010

Bruce Ackley, soprano and tenor
Jon Raskin, baritone and alto
Steve Adams, alto
Larry Ochs, tenor

The Blocks (Adams)
Cobalt Filaments (Adams)
Konitz (Raskin)
Slip Slide Memorandum (Adams)
Contours of the Glass Head (Ackley - Adams - Ochs - Raskin)

It was a rare pleasure to hear the Rova Saxophone Quartet (est. 1977) in east-central Illinois. What most impressed me in the performance: the communication among the musicians and the beauty and range of sound they drew from their instruments. Glances, sideways movements, and hand signals marked shifts from one compositional episode to another, some wholly notated, some most likely recipes for rhythmic or tonal textures, flutters, overtones, wails. The sheer sound of the Rova quartet is an inspiring thing — sometimes massive and proclamatory, sometimes densely foggy, sometimes luminous and airy, always deeply disciplined and deeply expressive.

It’s difficult — and ultimately unnecessary — to slap a label onto the group’s work. Is it “jazz”? Is it “new music”? As Duke Ellington always insisted, there are only two kinds of music. Rova’s is the good kind.

Many thanks to Jason Finkelman, who runs the Sudden Sound concert series at the Krannert and brought Rova to Champaign.

Rova:Arts/Rova Saxophone Quartet

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