Friday, May 23rd, 2008 ... 3:00 p.m. - 6:20 p.m. ... KZSU, 90.1 FM

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I'll be going to see the ROVA/Nels Cline Celstial Septet on Wednesday, May 28 at Yoshi's (San Francisco). It's the combination of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet and the Nels Cline Singers. ROVA does special groupings like this every year under the banner "Rovate," which sometimes refers to a festival lineup that can include Orchestrova, a large-band configuration with ROVA inside it. This time, it's just a series of Septet concerts, at Yoshi's, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, and the Palms Playhouse in Winters, Calif.

The latest ROVA album is The Juke Box Suite, a set of Jon Raskin compositions intended "composed with an ideal juke box in mind, where any kind of music might show up from any culture or time," as the liner notes put it. The project is dedicated to Alan Lomax and the Global Jukebox.

The album starts out in a melodic vein with "Juke Box Afro-Balkan" and "Juke Box Mambo," which have their share of tangled-vine interplay and improvisation but also come off easy to the ears. Later, "Juke Box Detroit" (dedicated to The White Stripes) pulls off an introduction of freely improvised lines in a faux Motown mode. There's even a track based on the very un-ROVA-like Värttinä.

Some of the musical influences are self-explanatory. Klezmer styles pop up in "Juke Box Niggum" and "Detroit," after that intro, lays down some soulful blues vamps while still leaving room for group "solo" excursions. Still, I can't help but wonder if there are other influences tucked away in there that I'm missing. "Afro-Balkan," in particular, didn't strike me as being either, on a first casual listen. (This writeup describes "African tonalities over Balkan rhythms," which makes some sense of it.) "Juke Box Choro," dedicated to Pixinguinha, has an undeniable Latin-jazz flair but a courtliness to it as well, which might or might not be a direct reflection of choro music. I guess I'll have to seek out more, which is just the kind of seed this music is meant to plant.

I hate to put it this way, but this would make a great beginner's guide to ROVA. It spins easy, melodic contexts but also presents a touch of the group improvising that makes ROVA's work so effective.

As with even the most famous classical ensembles, not everything ROVA performs makes it into the recording studio, and not everything recorded makes it onto disk. I don't imagine ROVA fights over album real estate the way a Beatles- or Queen-like band would, but it's still impressive that Raskin managed to take over a whole project, writing-wise. The idea must have really caught the hearts of the other ROVA members, and I'd guess they also saw fun improvising possibilities between the lines.

Also of note this week:

  • A rediscovery of No Wave, and a new book on the subject by Marc Masters
  • Avast! 'Tis The Pirate Band!
  • Long-overdue props for Jim Black's latest
  • X-Legged Sally rocked the Knit
  • I don't give many details, but Mostly Other People Do the Killing is a pretty darn fun band

    Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.

    * ROVA Saxophone Quartet -- "Obvious" -- Morphological Echo (Rastascan, 1994)

    * Kali Z. Fasteau, Kidd Jordan, Newton T. Baker -- "Sound Tranceport" -- Live at Kerava (Flying Note, 2008)

    O-Type -- "Beast" -- Mommy (Electro-Motive, 1994) * Rent Romus' Lords of Outland -- "Gasburger Sheep Slaughter House" -- You Can Sleep When You're Dead (Edgetone, 2007) John Zorn/Bar Kokhba -- "Lalquiel" -- Lucifer (Book of Angels, Vol. 10) (Tzadik, 2007)

    * Peter Brotzmann and Peeter Uuskyla -- "Ain't Got the Money" [excerpt] -- Born Broke (Atavistic, 2008)

    Tibor Szemzo -- "Symultan" [excerpt] -- The Other Shore (Leo Records, 1999) ? Jim Black/Alas No Axis -- "Dogs of Great Indifference" -- Dogs of Great Indifference (Winter & Winter, 2004)

    The Nels Cline Singers -- "Suspended Head" -- Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone, 2001)

    -- 4:00 p.m. --

    ROVA Saxophone Quartet -- "Ascension" [excerpt] -- John Coltrane's Ascension (Black Saint, 1996)

    The Nels Cline Singers -- "Watch Over Us" -- The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone, 2004)
    * Charles Lloyd Quartet -- "Prometheus" -- Rabo de Nube (ECM, 2008)

    *! The Pirate Band -- "Sea of Phlegm" -- Nautical by Nature (Rodent, 2008)
    *! The Pirate Band -- "Drunken Sailor" -- Nautical by Nature (Rodent, 2008)

    * Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures -- "Oshobgo" -- Dream Garden (Justin Time, 2008) Palo Alto > Klimperei -- "En S ou en L" -- Mondocane (Acidsoxx, 2008)
    -- 5:00 p.m. --

    Mostly Other People Do the Killing -- "The Hop Bottom Hop" -- Shamokin!!! (Hot Cup, 2008)

    Edmund Welles: The Bass Clarinet Quartet -- "Asmodeus: The Destroyer, King of the Demons" -- Agrippa's 3 Books (Zeroth Law, 2005)

    X-Legged Sally -- "Midwave" -- Eggs and Ashes (Sub Rosa, 1994)

    * Don Cherry Quintet -- "Cocktail Piece" -- Live at Cafe Montmartre, 1966 (ESP-Disk, 2007; recorded 1966)

    * Keefe Jackson's Project Project -- "Tilted" -- Just Like This (Delmark, 2007)

    -- 6:00 p.m. --

    The remainder of the show was related to a book release event being held at 21 Grand for No Wave, a book by Marc Masters on that heavily influential phase of NYC music. It's got an introduction by Weasel Walter, who's a scholar of the music. The event included rare movies of the bands in question, probably taken from Walter's own collection, and live performances from not-necessarily no-wave bands that at least capture a similar spirit: Death Sentence: Panda! and Ettrick.

    I've only recently gotten into no wave myself, having developed an interest in the real underground that coexisted with the more famous CBGB's scene of Blondie, the B-52s, etc. I've only scratched the surface. My main roadmap is the compilation N.Y. No Wave from Ze Records, which hits on names like James White, James Chance, Lydia Lunch, Mars, Arto Lindsay, and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. I'd been meaning to drop something from the era into a setlist sometime anyway, so this seemed a good chance to do it.

    ! James White and the Blacks -- "Contort Yourself" -- Off White (Ze/Arista, 1979)

    Ettrick -- [untitled track 2] -- demo CD (self-released, 2005) ? Weasel Walter Quartet -- "Right Now We Are Revolting" -- Revolt Music (ugEXPLODE, 2006)

    * = Item in KZSU rotation
    ! = Pop anomaly
    ? = Item not in KZSU library

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