Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
A masterpiece for saxophone quartet
greg taylor | Portland, Oregon United States | 10/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many ways to explore musical genres with which you are unfamiliar. One of my favorite ways is to follow the musical ethic of an artist or group that I respect. A long time ago, liner notes by Charles Mingus led me Fats Waller, Honey Bear Cedric and Baby Dodds. Frank Zappa led me to Varese. The Arditti String Quartet has taught me about Ferneyhough and many many others.
One of the genres that I love the most has been that of the saxophone quartet. And one of my surest guides to that genre has been the four characters who make up ROVA. In its early days, ROVA was Jon Raskin (baritone and other saxs), Larry Ochs (tenor and other saxs), Andrew Voigt (alto sax etc.) and Bruce Ackley (soprano sax, etc.). By this 1996 CD, Andrew Voigt had been replaced by Steve Adams.
Back in 1985, the ROVA collective had the smarts to make themselves a non-profit which allowed them to commission many works from composers they admire and to promote new music of all kinds. They were one of the first jazz groups to tour Russia (see their Saxophone Diplomacy and This Time We Are Both CDs) and to promote Russian free jazz groups.
I have wanted to review this particular CD of theirs for a while because it is simply one to their best. This CD is made up of two pieces composed by Lindsay Cooper, two by Barry Guy, one by Fred Frith and one by Larry Ochs.
What makes this CD so special is that these various compositions play to all of the strengths of the group. These guys have insane skills both as a group and as individual players. Witch Gong Game by Guy allows us to appreciate some of the individual voices. Water Under the Bridge by Frith is in many ways the most traditional and accessible piece. From soft lovely chordal voices by the group as a whole, Adams (I think) emerges with lovely alto tone exploring a very melodic and traditional solo.
Och's Initials features a driving rhythmic riff that emerges from a formless mass and then disintegrates seemlessly into choas. Great stuff.
But for me the glory of this CD are the Cooper compositions. The woman is a wonder of endless wit and variation, of total understanding of the possibilities of the instruments being used (she played basson and sax) and ultimately just plain old genius. These pieces romp (I would love to see someone choreograph these pieces), surprise, delight, engross and inspire.
Ms. Cooper has retired from composing due to illness but (praise God) we have these pieces and other CDs like Oh Moscow.
If you are new to the glories of the saxophone quartet, to ROVA or to the genius that is Lindsay Cooper this is a great place to start. Some of the pieces (the pieces by Guy and Ochs) are demanding and not for everyone but the whole CD repays frequent listening. This is a masterwork, people. It has my highest recommendation."