Ironically, the highest forms of freedom require the greatest discipline. And so it is with the ROVA saxophone quartet, rejuvenated in their earliest form on this '81 reissue. As Was
documents the earliest form of this quartet, before Steve Adams replaced Andrew Voight. And it's heady stuff: fleet, adventurous, roving, and emotionally dense. Periods of arranged chordal progression slyly disintegrate into four independent voices of interplay, interweaving themes and fine-sculpted tones. The structure of the freer passages may be less obvious, but these sections have a potent underlying logic.
Part of the legacy of the free jazz tradition is the concept that musical lines can have meaning with respect to other simultaneously improvised lines, independent of formal harmony or time signature. Take this concept and square it, and you have a situation where great discipline is required to create a coherent work. ROVA specializes in precisely this mode of operation, drawing influences from Albert Ayler, Olivier Messiaen, and Otis Redding along the way. As Was is not for feeble ears, and certainly it demands involvement on the part of the listener. But it's a fantastic document of the power, range, and complexity of musical freedom.
Personnel: Jon Raskin: baritone, alto, and soprano saxophones; clarinet. Larry Ochs: tenor, sopranino, and alto saxophones. Andrew Voight: alto, sopranino, and soprano saxophones; flutes. Bruce Ackley: soprano saxophone; clarinet.