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ROVA Channeling Coltrane: Electric Ascension

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Ascension served as John Coltrane’s line in the sand when it was released in 1966. Those who sought greater musical enlightenment embraced the album-length piece, performed by the saxophonist in a horn-heavy ensemble of 11. On the other side of the line, some shaking their heads in disgust, were the Trane fans who preferred “After the Rain” or his first “My Favorite Things.” But the bold move has withstood the test of time.

ROVA, the San Francisco-based saxophone quartet, has staged a new arrangement of “Electric Ascension” on several occasions with a larger ensemble, and released one of them in 2005. The new performance, from the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival, features some of those same players: guitarist Nels Cline, bassist Fred Frith, electronics manipulators Chris Brown and Ikue Mori and violinists Carla Kihlstedt and Jenny Scheinman. New to the project are Rob Mazurek (cornet, electronics) and Hamid Drake (drums). After a few opening minutes of electronic bleeps and scrapes, ROVA tenor saxophonist Larry Ochs cops a raspy, Pharoah Sanders-type tone and cues the theme.

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