the rova saxophone quartet


CINEMA ROVATE Metalanguage 101




DAREDEVILS Metalanguage 105

John Raskin, Larry Ochs Andrew Voigt, Bruce Ackley / various saxophones, clarinets, flute, Daredevils only: Henry Kaiser / electric and acoustic guitars. Recorded: 101: July 25 & August 2, 1978; 106: February 12, 1979; 105: March 11, 1979.

ROVA’s playing has been treated favorably in a number of publications, and the praise is well deserved. Their richness of sound, unique compositional stylings, and generally just their success in dealing with the saxophone quartet genre are self-evident on hearing them. Yet the group’s importance may mainly be the extent to which it has been able to synthesize various technical and conceptual options. So it’s considerably less involved with the extensions of language as such than with the integration of language already formed into workable formal wholes.

Photo: Sharon Beals

This is simultaneously the group’s strength and also its main weakness – weakness because it means that structural and formal concept tends to precede content (even though, on one level – as summation – it stems directly from that) whereas the whole history of jazz and improvised music suggests precisely the opposite – that is, new compositional approaches have mainly arisen in response to new improvisational demands, and not vice-versa. So there’s a certain tendency for the structures to want to close in on themselves because the improvisational aspects (except as structural elaboration) are usually decidedly secondary, and there’s very little place or space for the language to spontaneously explode on its own. I don’t think it has to be this way, but for now, that seems to be mainly how the group works.

So, for me, there’s been a level of dissatisfaction lurking beneath the enjoyment of hearing the quartet’s music. Because at a certain point, you feel like hearing the whole thing collapse and let go and have the chance to become something else beyond the idea of it.

That said, I want to hasten to recommend ROVA’s records, especially Cinema Rovate and Daredevils, the latter featuring Henry Kaiser on guitar and guitars and who does add, particularly on his own composition, “Mal Que Arroz” (and beyond the obvious parodying of himself and other guitarists), at least a bit of the dash – a willingness to open up the basic concept – the group could use more of.

ROVA’s accomplishments, of course, far outweigh any shortcomings, but I wanted to mention what I have for the simple reason that no one else probably will.

Henry Kuntz, 1979


selected ROVA recordings:


more on ROVA here…

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