In June of 2015 in San Francisco, Rova produced a complete evening of extended compositions collectively entitled No Favorites: Music for Lawrence ‘Butch’ Morris. The three pieces highlight long-time Rova improvisational strategies, including Rova’s unique hand-cueing system. These pieces complemented each other brilliantly in performance and led to a standing ovation from the San Francisco audience. It was the perfect lead-in to an early July recording session that will be released by New World Records in fall, 2016.
OrkestRova 2015 was comprised of Rova on saxophones, a “string quartet” of violin, viola, cello, and acoustic bass, plus a “power trio” of electric guitar, electric bass and drum kit. In the spirit of Butch Morris’ music, a conductor is employed, either by having one of the Rova members making the conduction-cues, or by drawing in a 12th musician to act as “conductionist.” In this case that guest conductor was San Francisco luminary Gino Robair.
The compositions performed by OrkestRova 2015 were: (1) a Rova-designed 25-minute structured-improvisation in 9 seamless movements entitled Contours of the Glass Head; (2) Larry Ochs’ 25-minute Buckminster Fuller Disagrees; and (3) The Double Negative: three graphically-notated pieces from Steve Adams and Jon Raskin, arranged by Adams to overlap and interact as one extended composition.
The music from Orkestrova 2015 aka No Favorites is easily exportable using local musicians in your area who are experienced in structured improvisation. For example, this project was originally put together for the 2013 Akbank Jazz Festival in Istanbul, where Rova worked with 7 Turkish musicians. While Rova most prefers to present these pieces using the same instrumentation (as well as the 2015 show’s Bay Area players), changes in instrumentation are possible.
Any of these 3 pieces can also be performed or combined with newly commissioned works for future performances. But at the moment we encourage complete presentations of No Favorites. It is now battle-tested.
Rova’s history with Butch Morris includes appearing in his 26- saxophones ensemble at Berlin’s 1989 FMP Festival as well as a performance at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco that same year, with a Rova-selected creative orchestra that was led by Butch in one of his earliest recorded conductions; later released as part of the epic 10-CD Butch Morris box set on New World Records. Then in 2006 Rova:Arts presented Butch in its Improv:21 series of “informances” where guests were interviewed, spoke about what they do, and demonstrated that music either live or in recording. It is generally agreed that Butch’s informance was one of the 2 or 3 strongest shows in that series. (You can view that by clicking here.)
Butch’s enthusiasm for and determination to compose “on the fly”, using only his pre-rehearsed cues and his ensemble-of-the-moment, impressed and inspired Rova to continue on their own path of creating structured-improvisations for quartet and large ensembles.
Since 1978, Rova has been pushing these musical boundaries, while straddling the worlds of composition and improvisation, to create exciting, genre-bending music. In addition to Butch Morris, the list of Rova collaborators in the past 35 years includes: John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, Terry Riley, Sam Rivers, Carla Kihlstedt, Wadada Leo Smith, Satoko Fujii, Tim Berne, Alvin Curran, Ikue Mori, Nels Cline, Kronos Quartet, inkBoat, We Players.