Friday, September 1, 2017

ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Kyle Bruckmann, Henry Kaiser, Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited

Revisiting classic avant-contemporary jazz works can be a challenging proposition. Somehow to retain something of the vibrational aura of the original yet also bring in a fresh improvisation slant on it all is far from easy. The ROVA Saxophone Quartet is no stranger to such efforts, having done a very worthy job in recreating Coltrane's Ascension some years ago.

And now the ROVA Saxophone Quartet returns with a movingly expressive look at Steve Lacy's 1975 Saxophone Special, appropriately titled Saxophone Special Revisited (Clean Feed 415). There of course is nothing else quite like the Steve Lacy of those classic days, with his brittle, dryly acerbic wit and quirky smarts.

The ROVA revisit maintains the same instrumentation as the original: sax quartet (Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin), synthesizer/electronics (Kyle Bruckmann), electric guitar (Henry Kaiser). The performers understand completely the tabula rasa nature of the original live recording and manage to convey it authoritatively while giving us a very creative take on the improvisational possibilities that bring the music alive for the world today.

On the recording we get the five original compositions plus Lacy's "Cliches" and "Sidelines" as bonus tracks. The extras are no throw-ins so much as an extension of the moods and modes of the music.

Any avant contemporary jazz listener will find this album quite enjoyable, stimulating, bracing, whether they have lived long with Lacy's original LP (as I have) or not. Those that know it will appreciate how ROVA and company manage to keep to the original mood yet move it ahead in creative ways. Spring forward, fall back. Listen and travel to future and past at the same time. Do it.

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