John Coltrane's Ascension
Black Saint/Soul Note
For this live recording date the Rova Saxophone Quartet is billed simply as Rova, due to the addition of a two-bass rhythm section with piano and drums, plus the addition of Glenn Spearman's tenor and the trumpets of Dave Douglas and Raphe Malik, befitting this 30th anniversary celebration of one of Trane's long misunderstood works. Literally Ascension was designed as energetic expression without safety net-vibrating on multiple thematic motifs of spiritual yearning.
That Rova has chosen to recreate Coltrane's many-hued canvas garners high marks from this corner. That they do it within spiritual striking distance of the original is reward enough, and not for the timid listener. The opening "Welcome" sounds a lovely, pastoral invocation for the maelstrom to follow. The dialogue between horns is engaged on the shifting surfaces of a rhythm section whose task is largely subordinate to the horn-blown discourse, but whose textures serve as sort of a launching pad. The arrangement was forged by alto man Jon Raskin and it is a prodigious 49:59 in length.