Channeling Coltrane: Rova’s Electric Ascension Channeling Coltrane: Rova’s Electric Ascension

Famed for its monumental scale and raw emotional power, John Coltrane’s Ascension has been reimagined in electrifying style by Rova Saxophone Quartet, to be performed by a “dream team” of master improvisers.
A very special work that was once considered an uncompromising concentration of sounds is now welcomed as music to open and close major-city jazz festivals, as music with a transcendent appeal. While the electric arrangement is part of this transformation, it’s more that listeners in this time period have caught up to and now can hear the original intent of the work.
John Coltrane’s Ascension stands as a watershed that links his most creative periods. Recorded in 1965, this large-scale piece is part of his late work, which was characterized by augmentation of the early ‘60s quartet, longer compositional forms, higher energy in solos and a free dialogue in ensemble improvisations.
But John Coltrane was nothing if not a relentless innovator. In the spirit of that search for knowledge and innovation, and in the spirit of Coltrane’s search for the new, Rova proposed in 2003 to imagine a new instrumental line-up and a modified compositional form, tailored to that new line-up, for this 21st century performance of Ascension.
For any Electric Ascension performance, Rova’s Larry Ochs gathers together a group of daring improvisers whose own musics are created with the same spirit of exploration and innovation. It is not our intention to replicate the original Ascension recording, but rather to use it as a springboard to improvise in our moment of the creative continuum. So we have gone electric, and electronic. And we have chosen to employ masters of free improvisation. Musicians who, in general, have spent years learning how to listen and how to respond, and who understand intuitively when to play lead roles and when to play support or orchestral roles in a group improvisation. We are indebted to Coltrane (and other great artists) for inspiring us to engage uncompromisingly in the risky business of creativity.
The Sunday January 17 show at (le) Poisson Rouge features an amazing ensemble: Nels Cline (el gtr), Charles Burnham (violin), Gerald Cleaver (drums), Trevor Dunn (bass), Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Ikue Mori (electronics), Zeena Parkins (el. harp), Nate Wooley (trumpet, effects) plus the four Rova stalwarts on saxophones (Ochs, Raskin, Ackley, Adams).
Julian Lage (guitar) opens at 6 PM; Rova Channeling Coltrane at 7 PM.
Rova official site