The jubilee Vilnius Jazz presents a collaboration of true legends of free improvised music.
Rova Saxophone Quartet, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, never fails to surprise the audiences not only with its longevity, but also ingenuity with which it insistently illustrates how wide and intriguing a format of traditional saxophone quartet could be. Rova has developed individual style, embracing an array of contemporary techniques from serialism to rock and free, that has considerably extended horizons of music. Since its very conception, Rova has resisted the lure of the then popular jazz-rock or fusion and focused on free improvised music and so called avant-garde, post-bop, avant-rock and the 20th-century new music. Rova draws on a spectrum of influences reaching from Charles Ives, Edgar Varese, Olivier Messiaen and John Cage on one side, onto John Coltrane, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Ornette Coleman and world music on the other.
While much of Rova Saxophone Quartet’s music is composed by its members, the group’s repertoire also includes spontaneous improvisations and new works commissioned from a wide range of contemporary composers. And all of the above is being weaved into a musical fabric that investigates synthesis of composition and collective improvisation.
Formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1977, the Quartet soon gained reputation of one of the most popular free jazz groups. Foursome has devised an uncomplicated name from abbreviation of their names – Raskin, Ochs, Voigt and Ackley. Having become the hallmark of the Quartet’s style, the name has remained the same even after Andrew Voigt left Rova and was replaced by Steve Adams in 1989.
Rova gave its first concert in 1978; the same year recorded its first album Cinema released on Larry Ochs’ Metalanguage label. Since then, Rova Saxophone Quartet recorded over two dozens albums, critically acclaimed as the etalon of creative music.
Since the 90s, Rova has been touring around the globe. It was the first jazz group from beyond ‘iron curtain’ to visit the Soviet Union (1983) with a certain diplomatic mission – Saxophone Diplomacy (a documentary video of the tour, released in 1985, among others featured Vladimir Tarasov). In 1986, Rova hosted the GTC Trio, the first Soviet jazz group to appear in the U.S. The Trio performed with Rova at its first Pre-Echoes series of collaborative events, which would later include concerts with John Zorn as well as his Quintet and group Cobra, Kronos Quartet, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Terry Riley and others. Committed to experimenting and joint projects Rova sometimes augments more than two times; these projects are called OrkestRova.
Rova does not restrict itself to music making. Besides being a unique ensemble, it also is an institution involved in artistic, educational and concert activities. 1985 saw establishing of non-profit organization Rova:Arts organising annual events in the San Francisco Bay Area: New Music on the Mountain and Rovate. The first being concerts outdoors at the spectacular Mt. Tamalpais, and Rovate – special collaborations between Rova and guests such as Sam Rivers, Wadada Leo Smith, Gerry Hemingway and Satoko Fujii, and premieres of works written especially for Rova by up and coming local composers.
In addition to work in Rova Saxophone Quartet and Rova:Arts,the members of the legendary group also maintain their individual careers.
Soprano saxophonist Bruce Ackley (b. 1948) is also a founding member of Sound Clinic, and the leader of trio Actual Size. He has contributed to several recording sessions with such musicians as John Zorn, Henry Kaiser and Eugene Chadbourne.
Bruce Ackley traded architecture for saxophone, which he started playing comparatively late – at the age 22. In the beginning he played with his own trio, for some time worked as jazz and new music disc jockey in radio station; was a founding member of the Blue Dolphin, an artist-run alternative art space in San Francisco. In 1998, together with Joey Baron and Greg Cohen he recorded his first album (The Hearing) as the leader and saxophonist.
Steve Adams (b. 1952) joined Rova in 1988. At the time, he already had experience of playing in similar formations – played and recorded with Boston’s Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet.
Steve Adams appeared in over 30 albums and 3 as a leader. He has collaborated with Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, Dave Holland, Donald Byrd, Bill Horvits, and Jaki Byard; duo with bassist Ken Filiano, and saxophonist Vinny Golia, among others. He also composes for various ensembles, works as a producer.
Besides playing in Rova, Larry Ochs (b. 1949) works as a producer and in recording studios. Before the formation of the legendary Quartet, in 1972 – 1977 he owned and operated Twelve Stars Studio in Northern California, in 1978 founded the Metalanguage Records with Henry Kaiser, featuring independent artists such as Diamanda Galas in addition to Rova.
Like Bruce Ackley, Larry Ochs started playing saxophone at the age 22, having played trumpet before. One of Rova’s founding members also plays in several trios: is a member and composer with trio Room, founding member of Glenn Spearman Double Trio, plays in What We Live trio.
In addition to working in Rova Saxophone Quartet,Jon Raskin (b. 1954) composes for theatre, film and dance companies, as well as Rova. He has recorded solo albums, contributed to Anthony Braxton Quintet’s album dedicated to Lennie Tristano.
At the Vilnius Jazz festival Rova Saxophone Quartet presents a special project with two eminent percussionists – Swiss Fritz Hauser and Lithuanian Vladimir Tarasov. The latter has collaborated with the legendary Saxophone Quartet in the past having recorded Saxophone Diplomacy (1985) and San Francisco Holidays (Rova saxophone Quartet and GTC Trio, 1992).
Vladimir Tarasov is a prominent drummer, inventive percussionist; one of the first in Europe to appear in solo programmes. Moreover, he is a composer and visual artist. The legendary musician is one of the founders of the Lithuanian jazz school and one of the symbols of the Vilnius Jazz. This is his tenth performance at the festival. In the past he has appeared as a soloist, with his Lithuanian Art Orchestra, as well as in international projects. Vladimir Tarasov is versed in many styles, though his main interests are free jazz and improvised music.
Born in Archangelsk (Russia), Vladimir Tarasov has resided and worked in Vilnius since 1968. 1969 saw the formation of a duo with Viacheslav Ganelin, which in two years has grown into internationally acclaimed GTC Trio. Most active in 1971–1989, the legendary Trio was seminal for the formation of the Lithuanian jazz school.
Since 1984, Vladimir Tarasov has been devising solo programmes (Atto); in 1991, he formed and is a leader of regularly gathered The Lithuanian Art Orchestra. Extraordinary talent has brought him together with outstanding artistic partners such as Andrew Cyrille, John Fisher, Valentina Ponomariova, Patrick Scheyder, Sainkho Namtchylak, Bill Laswel, Tomasz Stanko, Sergei Kuriokhin, Kazutoki Umezu, Lauren Newton, Masahiko Satoh, Sonny Murray, Keshevan Maslak, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and Josef Nadj among others. He has collaborated with Rova Saxophone Quartet, Octet Ost, Moscow Composers Orchestra, and group Archangelsk. As a soloist and member of various formations Vladimir Tarasov contributed to over 100 albums.
In addition to active involvement in jazz world, Vladimir Tarasov, a conceptual artist, collaborates with the Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra, representatives of diverse art medias – writers, artists and dancers; composes for orchestras, film and theatre; devises visual and multimedia projects, performances, sound installations; participates in personal and group visual art shows in Lithuania and abroad; cooperates with various theatres and other institutions of performing art; in 1999–2002, served as an artistic director of the Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania.
The musician also teaches, gives lectures; has authored an autobiography Trio (1998).
This project also features the legendary Swiss percussionist Fritz Hauser. Vilnius Jazz will also present his solo programme. Please find more information on Fritz Hauser here
© Jūratė Kučinskaitė