Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I don’t normally go out of my way to make pitches for KickStarter campaigns – a link in a long list is about as fancy as I get – but I have had the opportunity to hear Orkestrova -- the fluctuating ensemble that has at its core the ROVA Saxophone Quartet & the no-vocals Nels Cline Singers – perform John Coltrane’s Ascension in their Electric Ascension arrangement at the I-House in Philadelphia, and I can attest first hand to the phenomenal power of this event. And if I can’t be in Guelph (which, alas, I can’t), anything I can do to ensure a professional video record of the occasion is an effort worth making. It is enough to note that John Coltrane was to jazz pretty much what Shakespeare was to the stage, and that Ascension is the piece that most decisively pushes his capabilities to the limit – think of it as the Lear of free-form music. It’s a world not so much to follow as to inhabit, and when you are inside it as a listener you go boldly where no one has gone before – pretty much literally.

The finest concert I have ever heard – ever – was a ROVA performance of The Hive, a site-specific work performed at 80 Langton Street when that was still a performance art space in San Francisco. Folding chairs were set back-to-back-to-back in triangles (akin I suppose to the cells in a hive) while the quartet performed from the outer rim of the small brick building. It’s a piece that ROVA has never recorded because it was, in fact, site-specific, but it’s precisely the kind of work that might have been preserved in some form had this kind of technology been available at the time. ROVA’s musicians are my age – which means that they won’t be here in 50 years, any more than Coltrane is around now – so this is a critical opportunity to make something important happen in the world of music. They have until July 25 to make this happen and, as of July 2, they weren’t quite halfway there.

KickStart the concert video of Electric Ascension