Reviews that mention Bruce Ackley

January 6, 2016

On The Cover

Rova: Still Creative After All These Years
By Ken Waxman

Someone once described Rova as the Grateful Dead of Jazz. A comparison to the Rolling Stones would be more accurate. For more than 38 years, with only one change in personnel 27 years ago, the Bay area-based saxophone quartet has created high quality music. However unlike the venerable British rockers whose music hasn’t been cutting edge for decades, Rova continues to evolve and experiment.

Case in point: this month’s series of NYC concerts. From the 19th to the 24th, the band’s residency at The Stone offers a retrospective of classic Rova material as well as new works. Some sets will feature Rova and guest musicians, some of whom have never played with the band before. Before that, on January 17th at Le Poisson Rouge, an expanded Rove ensemble will perform Electric Ascension, a 21st Century re-imagining of John Coltrane’s classic work. Concurrently, RogueArt will release Channeling Coltrane, containing a live performance of Electric Ascension from the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival on DVD and Blue-ray; a CD of the music itself; plus Cleaning the Mirror, a documentary that mixes the story of Rova’s Ascension adaptation with a history of the creation of Coltrane’s seminal session. MORE

October 7, 2012

Festival Report

The Guelph Jazz Festival
By Ken Waxman

A spectre was haunting the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), but it was a benign spectre: the ghost of John Coltrane. The influence of Coltrane, who died in 1967, was honored in direct and indirect ways throughout the five days of the festival which takes places annually in this mid-sized college town, 100 kilometres west of Toronto.

This year’s edition (September 5 to 9), featured two live performances of Ascension, Coltrane’s free jazz masterwork from 1965, one with the original instrumentation by an 11-piece Toronto ensemble at the local arts centre; the other on the main stage of the soft-seated River Run Centre concert hall featured the Bay-area ROVA saxophone’s quartet reimaging of the work, scored for 12 musicians adding strings and electronics to the basic ensemble. MORE

September 21, 2012

Kyle Bruckmann

On Procedural Grounds
New World Records 80725-2

Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack

Cracked Refraction

Porter Records PRCD 4061

As improvised music’s pre-eminent – well let’s face it probably only – oboe and English horn specialist, Oakland, Calif.-based Kyle Bruckmann has been flexing his organizational muscles as a band leader and composer during the past few years. These recent CDs showcase these talents admirably along, of course, with his distinctive soloing.

Gigging with New music ensembles, the Stockton Symphony and many area regional orchestras plus a smattering of Rock and electronic music bands is how Bruckmann makes his living, but it’s with his own Wrack quintet that he expresses his own ideas. Mostly consisting of Chicago musicians with whom Bruckmann played before relocating to the Bay area in 2003, the band is filled out by one player, violist Jen Clare Paulson, who is mostly involved in notated music ensembles, plus three others – bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Anton Hatwich and percussionist Tim Daisy – who usually work the Improv/Jazz side of the equation, with associates such as saxophonists Ken Vandermark and Dave Rempis. MORE

September 6, 2012

ROVA Saxophone Quartet

A Short History
Jazzwerkstatt JW 099

Ballrogg

Cabin Music

Hubro CD 2515

Matthew Shipp Trio

Elastic Aspects

Thirsty Ear TH 57202.2

Albert Beger/Gerry Hemingway

There’s Nothing Better to Do

OutNow Records ONR 007

Something in The Air: New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman

One of jazz’s watershed musical creations, John Coltrane’s 1965 performance of Ascension marked his committeemen to Free Jazz and has since served as a yardstick against which saxophone-centred large ensemble improvisations are measured. On September 7 at the River Run Centre’s main stage, one of the highpoints of this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival is a reimagining of Coltrane’s masterwork by the Bay area-based ROVA Saxophone Quartet and guests. Not only is the ensemble gutsily tackling the suite, but its arrangement take Coltrane’s all-acoustic piece for five saxes, two trumpets and rhythm section and reconfigures it so that ROVA’s four saxes, and one trumpeter interact with two drummers, two violins, electric guitar and bass plus electronic processing. MORE

December 15, 2011

ROVA

Planetary
SoLyd SLR 0407

Exquisitely empathetic after having played together for more than 30 years, Bay-area-based saxophone quartet ROVA still operates in a fashion that is as vigorous as it is eloquent, as this CD demonstrates. More to the point it confirms the quartet’s interaction, when you realize that the program which fits together seamlessly, is sutured between three compositions recorded in 2009, and two – including the title track – created six years earlier.

Just as generic to the situation, is that in performance ROVA is never at a loss for unique modulations and blends to introduce to the sound. The reason is two-fold, except for one personnel change very early on, the members of ROVA: soprano and tenor saxophonist Bruce Ackley; alto saxophonist Steve Adams; tenor saxophonist Larry Ochs; and Jon Raskin, who plays baritone and alto saxophone here, have been together long enough intuit the others’ reed strategies, and are confident enough to allow the music to develop organically. Additionally, over three decades not only has ROVA involved itself in a variety of thematic material and with many guests, but also the quartet isn’t anyone’s solitary pursuit. Each saxophonist – Ochs more than the others – spreads himself among other bands. MORE

November 15, 2011

ROVA

Planetary
SoLyd SLR 0407

Exquisitely empathetic after having played together for more than 30 years, Bay-area-based saxophone quartet ROVA still operates in a fashion that is as vigorous as it is eloquent, as this CD demonstrates. More to the point it confirms the quartet’s interaction, when you realize that the program which fits together seamlessly, is sutured between three compositions recorded in 2009, and two – including the title track – created six years earlier.

Just as generic to the situation, is that in performance ROVA is never at a loss for unique modulations and blends to introduce to the sound. The reason is two-fold, except for one personnel change very early on, the members of ROVA: soprano and tenor saxophonist Bruce Ackley; alto saxophonist Steve Adams; tenor saxophonist Larry Ochs; and Jon Raskin, who plays baritone and alto saxophone here, have been together long enough intuit the others’ reed strategies, and are confident enough to allow the music to develop organically. Additionally, over three decades not only has ROVA involved itself in a variety of thematic material and with many guests, but also the quartet isn’t anyone’s solitary pursuit. Each saxophonist – Ochs more than the others – spreads himself among other bands. MORE

July 8, 2010

ROVA & Nels Cline Singers

The Celestial Septet
New World Records NW 80708-2

A prime – and rare – case of parts actually adding up to a more impressive whole, The Celestial Septet joins two independently functioning improvising units into a first-class ensemble. Although both California-based ensembles, ROVA and the Nels Cline Singers, create impressive programs on their own, referencing sounds ranging from Energy Music to Noise Rock, this nearly 69-minute CD is open ended enough to provide a superlative environment for each band’s enhanced creativity. MORE

November 20, 2008

Larry Ochs

The Mirror World
Metalanguage MLX 2007

Two profoundly different – and stirring – musical musings on the unique films of the late Stan Brakhage, saxophonist Larry Ochs’ compositions, which make up The Mirror World, sonically reach the sense of infinite variety which Brakhage achieved in his films. Neither a portrait of one cinematic creation nor designed as a soundtrack to any of Brakhage’s works, Ochs compositions stand on their own, positing as original ways of hearing sounds as the film maker found personal ways to communicate his version of seeing light. MORE

January 31, 2008

Marc Baron/Bertrand Denzler/Jean-Luc Guionnet/Stéphane Rives

Propagations
Potlatch P107

ROVA

The Juke Box Suite

Not Two MW 786-2

Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg

Live At Roulette

Animul ANI 106

With unaccompanied group reed sessions now commonplace in improvised music, the challenge remains to make them more than technical exercises. Each of these notable CD succeeds in doing so; but each does so in an individual manner.

As could be expected from its populist title, The Juke Box Suite is probably the most lyrical of the many CDs from the Bay area-based ROVA quartet, which arguably pioneered the four saxophone concept in improv. Propagations, on the other hand, features a quartet of young French saxophonists, who have only performed in this formation since 2003. Completely eschewing the song form, the group’s one long performance uses textures, layering and arrangements that use reeds as sound sources rather than melody extensions. A duo, rather than a quartet like those on the other CDs, Brooklyn-based Ned Rothenberg and London-based Evan Parker exhibit their mastery of the multi-reed form by blending different combinations of Rothenberg’s three reeds and Parker’s two on six live performances. MORE

January 31, 2008

ROVA

The Juke Box Suite
Not Two MW 786-2

Marc Baron/Bertrand Denzler/Jean-Luc Guionnet/Stéphane Rives

Propagation
s

Potlatch P107

Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg

Live At Roulette

Animul ANI 106

With unaccompanied group reed sessions now commonplace in improvised music, the challenge remains to make them more than technical exercises. Each of these notable CD succeeds in doing so; but each does so in an individual manner.

As could be expected from its populist title, The Juke Box Suite is probably the most lyrical of the many CDs from the Bay area-based ROVA quartet, which arguably pioneered the four saxophone concept in improv. Propagations, on the other hand, features a quartet of young French saxophonists, who have only performed in this formation since 2003. Completely eschewing the song form, the group’s one long performance uses textures, layering and arrangements that use reeds as sound sources rather than melody extensions. A duo, rather than a quartet like those on the other CDs, Brooklyn-based Ned Rothenberg and London-based Evan Parker exhibit their mastery of the multi-reed form by blending different combinations of Rothenberg’s three reeds and Parker’s two on six live performances. MORE

January 31, 2008

Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg

Live At Roulette
Animul ANI 106

Marc Baron/Bertrand Denzler/Jean-Luc Guionnet/Stéphane Rives

Propagations

Potlatch P107

ROVA

The Juke Box Suite

Not Two MW 786-2

With unaccompanied group reed sessions now commonplace in improvised music, the challenge remains to make them more than technical exercises. Each of these notable CD succeeds in doing so; but each does so in an individual manner.

As could be expected from its populist title, The Juke Box Suite is probably the most lyrical of the many CDs from the Bay area-based ROVA quartet, which arguably pioneered the four saxophone concept in improv. Propagations, on the other hand, features a quartet of young French saxophonists, who have only performed in this formation since 2003. Completely eschewing the song form, the group’s one long performance uses textures, layering and arrangements that use reeds as sound sources rather than melody extensions. A duo, rather than a quartet like those on the other CDs, Brooklyn-based Ned Rothenberg and London-based Evan Parker exhibit their mastery of the multi-reed form by blending different combinations of Rothenberg’s three reeds and Parker’s two on six live performances. MORE

January 31, 2008

ROVA

The Juke Box Suite
Not Two MW 786-2

Marc Baron/Bertrand Denzler/Jean-Luc Guionnet/Stéphane Rives

Propagations

Potlatch P107

Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg

Live At Roulette

Animul ANI 106

With unaccompanied group reed sessions now commonplace in improvised music, the challenge remains to make them more than technical exercises. Each of these notable CD succeeds in doing so; but each does so in an individual manner.

As could be expected from its populist title, The Juke Box Suite is probably the most lyrical of the many CDs from the Bay area-based ROVA quartet, which arguably pioneered the four saxophone concept in improv. Propagations, on the other hand, features a quartet of young French saxophonists, who have only performed in this formation since 2003. Completely eschewing the song form, the group’s one long performance uses textures, layering and arrangements that use reeds as sound sources rather than melody extensions. A duo, rather than a quartet like those on the other CDs, Brooklyn-based Ned Rothenberg and London-based Evan Parker exhibit their mastery of the multi-reed form by blending different combinations of Rothenberg’s three reeds and Parker’s two on six live performances. MORE

October 3, 2006

ROVA

Totally Spinning
Black Saint BS 12026-2

Always improvised music’s second best-known saxophone quartet, the unWSQ perhaps or maybe more appropriately the Rolling Stones to the World Saxophone Quartet’s Beatles, Bay area-based ROVA has maintained an impressive consistency over the years.

Unlike Mick, Keef and the boys – and unlike some of the WSQ’s more populist recent projects – ROVA’s commitment to constant experimentation has kept it from becoming complacent or slipping into expected patterns. Almost 30 years on, the band still remains as vital as ever. MORE

October 10, 2005

ROVA:ORKESTROVA

Electric Ascension
Atavistic ALP159CD

Giving the symbolic finger to the museum-quality preservationists who make up most of jazz repertory companies, Rova, the Bay Area sax quartet, has audaciously created its own version of “Ascension”, John Coltrane’s seminal work from 1965. Then as further nose-thumbing to the crowd that prefers polite Duke Ellington or Miles Davis-Gil Evans style recreations, the band plus eight helpmates, has conflated the piece still further into a noise and electronic extravaganza.

What’s more, this is the second time the Rova crew has honored “Ascension”. In 1995, adding a rhythm section and additional stellar soloists such as trumpeter Raphe Malik and the late tenor saxophonist Glenn Spearman, the band created a lengthy acoustic version of Trane’s original suite. Still convinced that “Ascension” is a master work that deserves to be played even more often, Rova members Larry Ochs and Jon Raskin decided on another go round, radically changing the instrumentation without losing the composition’s essence. MORE

December 27, 2004

ROVA: ORKESTROVA

An Alligator in Your Wallet
EWE

By Ken Waxman
December 27, 2004

Limited to Japanese distribution, An Alligator in Your Wallet is an important CD because it provides new evidence for what already should be regarded as truisms.

One is that the usually self-contained Bay area saxophone quartet ROVA can smoothly function as the sax section in any sized ensemble. The other is that pianist Satoko Fujii, who divides her time between Tokyo and New York, is a versatile enough composer to utilize the idiosyncrasies of these musicians in more experimental pieces than she usually writes for her own bans and combos. MORE

November 22, 2004

HENRY KAISER/WADADA LEO SMITH/YO MILES!

Sky Garden
Cuneiform Rune 191/192

One of the most memorable -- if not the most memorable -- tributes to Miles Davis, the exultant Yo Miles! band makes its case for a variety of reasons.

First of all, it leaves the BIRTH OF THE COOL and ALL BLUES emulation to the neo-cons and instead concentrates on Davis’ little-appreciated 1971-1975 electric period. Second, unlike younger fusion bands that have recorded embarrassingly overwrought electric Miles imitations, Yo Miles! bandleaders -- guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith -- are old enough to have heard the sounds when they first appeared. Third, the two and their sidefolk approach the concept languidly, having worked on and refined their ideas -- while involved in other projects -- since 1998. MORE

July 21, 2003

ALESSANDRO BOSETTI/MICHEL DONEDA/BHOB RAINEY

Placés dans l’air
Potlatch P103

ROVA
Resistance
Victo cd 086

Once thought outlandish, all saxophone bands have become so commonplace in improvised music that it takes real inventiveness to differentiate any reed collective from others. PLACÉS DANS L’AIR and RESISTANCE manage to overcome this maxim, but in entirely different ways.

Actually, the superiority of the second CD shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s by ROVA, the Bay area-based sax quartet, which has been operating in this configuration since 1978, constantly evolving and innovating. Organized as temporarily as ROVA is long standing, the trio of soprano saxophonists on the first CD is a one/off meeting among three experimental reedists: Paris-based Michel Doneda, Milan-based Alessandro Bosetti, and Bhob Rainey from Boston. Their disc succeeds because they manage to fuse their individual low-key approaches to the horn so that it appears to take on the characteristics of one immense reed instrument. MORE

March 19, 2000

ROVA

As Was
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 216 CD

Founded at around the same time as the World Saxophone Quartet in the late 1970s, ROVA has always existed as a sort of the Bizarro West Coast twin to the that woodwind ensemble.

Yet today, when all-saxophone groupings are as commonplace as self-important pronouncements from Wynton Marsalis, listening to this 1981 disc shows exactly how ROVA defined itself and has since managed to evolve. Open to influences as varied as 20th Century classical music, avant garde jazz and rock music, ROVA often produced a devil may care cacophony that was as consistent as it was exhilarating.

MORE