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As Was

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Album Review

An early release by San Francisco's free jazz-meets-modern classical Rova Saxophone Quartet, As Was finds the group branching into a variety of stylistic areas but keeping their free jazz roots firmly at the base of their music. (Imagine four Anthony Braxtons in a frisky and experimental mood.) The set starts with the brief "Daredevils," a playful blast of honk-blat-phwee that co-founder Larry Ochs describes in the liner notes as "a little hit of the circus." The mood turns superficially more serious on "Quill," an exploration for soprano saxophone with an intriguing call-and-response structure. "Under the Street Where You Live" returns to the cacophony of the opener, with a few Albert Ayler-style solos unspooling over a main theme that honestly resembles a herd of angry geese at times. The expansive 20-minute closer, "Paint Another Take of the Shootpop," is dedicated to Olivier Messiaen and Otis Redding, and impressively enough, elements of both can be heard in the way passages of musique concrete alternate with R&B-inspired improvisations that almost sound, dare we say it, funky. Engaging, at times abrasive, yet accessible, As Was is one of the Rova Saxophone Quartet's strongest early releases.


Formed: 1977

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The experimental jazz zeitgeist of the 1960s and 1970s made possible any number of unconventional instrumental groupings. The basic horn-piano-bass-drums lineup of the modern jazz era lost its mandate, as more musicians searched for fresh and unusual sonorities. Ornette Coleman's bands did away with the piano; Cecil Taylor's trio with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray eliminated the bass. Musicians associated with the Chicago-based AACM occasionally...
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As Was, Rova
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