ORKESTROVA L.A. at REDCAT, September 30.
What, in the 21st century, is John Coltrane’s 1965 freeform “composition” Ascension? Touchstone? Rustbucket? Re-sacramentalized and electronicized by vet Bay Area avanteers the Rova Saxophone Quartet and seven mostly local allies, it was a lesson: The Spirit never shrivels; you can tap it anytime.Nobody can simply close his eyes and go for it like Nels Cline; appropriately, it was his ozone-gulping guitar that opened the floodgates, and in half a minute everybody had caught the wave. The original Ascension was concise in thematic material and long on group dynamics, drawing on the breaths of 11 major energy exporters, including Elvin Jones, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Freddie Hubbard. And the Orkestrova followed suit, with designated conductor Jon Raskin cuing simple changes and summoning fire from soloists. Fred Frith, usually a six-stringer, swayed the faithful with the melodious groovitude of his electric bass, while Earl Harvin inconspicuously stirred the elements together with his open rhythms and variable densities. The contrast of pairings added a sharp stab of drama: Tom Recchion’s electronic circles offsetting Mark Trayle’s digital squiggles, Jeff Gauthier’s romantic violin wafting through the spaces between Ronit Kirchman’s harsh electric-fiddle traumas. The Rova Quartet (Raskin, Larry Ochs, Steve Adams and Bruce Ackley) were a shifting unit of multisax color and noise, the very heart of controlled release.And it was so moving. As the forces gathered and dispersed again and again, opportunities kept cropping up — both to marvel at the sympathetic beauties of pure abstraction and to consider what this all meant. What it meant: The universe is ever changing, and anything is still possible. Those who wonder how mostly white musicians can align with a black artistic and cultural struggle 40 years past can understand that we all have our chains, and our hammers. True inspiration. Bravo.
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