Electronic Ascension 2003 is a realization of John Coltrane's original composition by this 12-piece group, built around the Rova sax quartet and augmented by a group of electronic musicians and string players that includes guitarist Nels Cline, electric bassist Fred Frith and Ikue Mori on sampler, among others. The electronic musicians engaged by Rova members Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs and Jon Raskin are smart, responsive improvisers. No dilettante-ish knob twiddlers here.
The music's success owes largely to the structure conceived by Ochs. Leaving such a large group to their own devices can be an invitation to disaster. Ochs averts it by sketching a schematic that structures the improvisation, breaking the ensemble into various groupings and resulting in a variety of sonorities and textures that sensibly unfold. The group uses Coltrane's simple motiv to guide and orient the collective. Also on hand are violinists Carla Kihlstedt and Jenny Scheinman; their individual contributions are hard to discern, but together they're terrific. The saxophonists are also superb, as is Cline. If electronics and free jazz have a future together, let's hope it goes a little sumthin' like this.