The Circumference of Reason
Despite the obvious obstacles, this singular San Francisco Bay Area band is staying on mission, moving forward. Over its four-plus decades the quartet has defined itself by applying an array of improvisational strategies to an ever-expanding body of new music. The Circumference of Reason includes six tracks composed or, in the case of “NC17,” designed between 2011 and 2016; then – in typical ROVA fashion - the pieces were worked over and performed by the quartet in rehearsals and concerts until perceived to be ready for recording. They include an arrangement of a Glenn Spearman piece as well as a piece dedicated to Glenn; the playing on both inspired by late saxophonist’s spirited personality and playing.
As well, this recording features two distinctly different versions of “NC17,” another in the series of ROVA’s structured improvisations, all of which have been culled from an ever-expanding set of visual and aural cues that the quartet has invented, or borrowed and adapted. On its face, “NC17” is simply a limited set of conceptual options to cue in, in any order, to then explore, populating the series of cued events with immersive music/sounds/energies etc. All the while – as a group – intending to create a palpable sonic architecture for each new performance of the piece. Even as we write this, we can say that the takes you hear on this CD are unique; no one take of “NC17” can be exactly the same as any other take of “NC17.”
“ROVA performances can reach the soaring lyrical intensity of bel canto, the rough-and-tumble tumult of a garage rock band, or the insistently patterned matrix of a minimalist chamber work.” So wrote Andrew Gilbert in 2018. The piece from which the CD’s title comes, “The Circumference of Reason,” is a good example of a minimalist piece when penned by a ROVA composer, in this case Steve Adams. Overall, this album offers an excellent cross-section of the multi-faceted ROVA.
Bruce Ackley – soprano and tenor saxophones; Steve Adams – alto and sopranino saxophones; Larry Ochs – tenor sax; Jon Raskin – baritone sax
Recorded on 6/22/18, 9/23/18 and 7/1/19 at New Improved Recording by John Finkbeiner.
Mixed on 1/16/19, 1/23/19 and 8/2/19 at New Improved Recording by John Finkbeiner and Steve Adams. Mastered by Myles Boisen at Headless Buddha Labs. Produced by Steve Adams.
1. The Extrapolation of the Inevitable (Glenn Spearman; arrangement: Ochs) 4:56
2. NC 17, Version 1 (ROVA) 10:08
3. The Circumference of Reason (Adams) 9:46
4. Xenophobia (Adams) 6:17
5. NC 17, Version 2 (ROVA) 13:02
6. The Enumeration (Adams; dedicated to Glenn Spearman) 8:06
“The polish of this celebrated self-contained unit is matched only by their daring.”—The New Yorker
“After four decades of ascending, Rova’s music has risen beyond the next level into interstellar space.”—Creative Loafing
“ROVA's provocative, resolutely avant-garde music draws on influences as disparate as John Coltrane and Iannis Xenakis, Anthony Braxton and Olivier Messiaen.”—Chamber Music
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