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The Celestial Septet / Rova Sax Quartet, Nels Cline Singers

Adams / Cline / Rova Saz Quartet / Nels Cline Sing
Release Date: 03/09/2010 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80708-2   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Scott AmendolaSteve AdamsSteve OchsLarry Ochs,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rova Saxophone QuartetNels Cline Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE CELESTIAL SEPTET Rova Sax Qrt; Nels Cline Singers NEW WORLD 80708-2 (68:58)

AMENDOLA Cesar Chávez. ADAMS Trouble Ticket. OCHS Whose to Know (for Albert Ayler). Head Count. CLINE The Buried Quilt

New World has made a point of chronicling the world of Read more progressive/experimental jazz in its catalog, and without doubt this movement is one of the most important and original American cultural contributions in the post-World War II era. The Celestial Septet is a partnership of two ensembles exploring this territory that mixes improvisation and notation, song and noise, jazz and rock, acoustics and electronics. And on and on, leaping one barrier and category after another. They’re hardly the only ones doing this, but on the basis of this disc, they’re very good at it.

Before going any farther, for the record, the Nels Cline Singers are an instrumental trio (no voice): Nels Cline, guitars; Devin Hoff, bass; Scott Amendola, drums. Rova’s saxophones are Bruce Ackley, soprano and tenor; Steve Adams, alto and sopranino; Larry Ochs, tenor and sopranino; Jon Raskin, baritone, alto, and sopranino.

I hear the music rooted in the eclectic (and synthetic) experiments of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music, which spun off such important figures as Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, George Lewis, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (and many others). Their mantra was to create a “Great Black Music” that ignored the lines between genres and historical periods, as well as between what was viewed as jazz and classical music. The notes for this disc also suggest the uncategorizable, protean Sun Ra and his Arkestra as an ancestor, and I agree completely.

The headnote lists composers, all from the combined ensembles’ personnel, but of course the works performed have degrees of openness structured into their fabric, so that all the musicians contribute to defining the final product. That doesn’t mean that the pieces all sound the same, though. Some works are more spacious: Amendola’s Cesar Chávez is more bluesy, Cline’s The Buried Quilt more spacey, though both leave plenty of room for energetic breaks. Adams’s Trouble Ticket might be my favorite, though I admit its tricky, pointillistic rhythms, clearly defined sections and returns, and precise motives appeal to my more “classical” sensibility, and so I know I’m biased. Steve Ochs’s Head Count is a great two minutes, a happy little tune looping against a complete guitar freakout/meltdown. And his Whose to Know (for Albert Ayler) is the most ambitious work on the program, approaching a half hour in duration, and covering a similarly vast range of styles and expressive states. While all the players have their chances to shine as soloists throughout the program, I was particularly astonished in this piece by Devin Hoff’s bass solo, which I can only describe as “stochastic” in its torrent of notes.

The notes relate a funny story of how a variant of this ensemble played a jazz festival in Spain, which caused one horrified concertgoer to bring in the Guardia Civil on a complaint that this was “not jazz” and harmful to his health. It appears forensic investigation concluded a crime had not been committed. But the complaint has some validity, in that this isn’t jazz in any traditional sense of the word. Post-jazz, perhaps. And a good thing, at that.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Cesar Chávez by Scott Amendola
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rova Saxophone Quartet,  Nels Cline Singers
Trouble Ticket by Steve Adams
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rova Saxophone Quartet,  Nels Cline Singers
Whose to Know (for Albert Ayler) by Larry Ochs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rova Saxophone Quartet,  Nels Cline Singers
Head Count by Larry Ochs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rova Saxophone Quartet,  Nels Cline Singers
The Buried Quilt by Nels Cline
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rova Saxophone Quartet,  Nels Cline Singers

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