The Rova Saxophone Quartet was founded in late 1977 by Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt, and Bruce Ackley for the occasion of a special festival appearance at Mills College in Oakland, California. The tapes of the concert were so exciting that the quartet decided to produce the record Cinema Rovaté . Before the completion of the recording, Rova had been invited to perform at the Vancouver New Music Society in Canada and the 1979 Moers International Jazz Festival in West Germany. Responses such as these made it clear that the saxophone quartet could be much more than a novelty group, and Rova established an on-going commitment to work as a multi-reed ensemble.
In the last 28 years, Rova has created dozens of pieces for saxophone quartet involving an adept blending of notated composition and structured improvisation. They have presented their work in hundreds of concerts in the U.S. and Canada, and on over 20 European tours, including concerts in France, Great Britain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia. In 1983, Rova became the first new music group from the United States to tour the USSR. Saxophone Diplomacy, a documentary video of the tour, has been aired on many PBS stations in the United States since its premier on KQED, San Francisco in 1983. Rova toured the USSR again in November 1989, releasing a CD from the tour on the New Albion label entitled, This Time We Are Both.
Since 1980, Rova has extended their musical interests to collaborative projects. Among their collaborators are The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Kronos String Quartet, Terry Riley, John Zorn, Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser, Richard Teitelbaum and David Rosenbloom, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, Anthony Braxton, Alvin Curran, and the martial arts drum troupe San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Rova's not-for-profit incorporation in 1985 helped develop a funding base for its acclaimed annual Pre-Echoes Series, collaborative concerts in which many of the above mentioned artists appeared. The Russian avant-garde Ganelin Trio inaugurated the series in San Francisco in June 1986. The Series also provided a venue for the world premieres of works written especially for Rova by composers such as Henry Threadgill, Jack DeJohnette, John Carter, Robin Holcomb, and Chris Brown.
Founding Member Andrew Voigt left Rova in August 1988 and was replaced by Steve Adams, formerly with Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet in Boston.
As of January 2006, Rova will have released 26 recordings of original music on labels usch as Black Saint, Hat Art, Atavistic, EWE, Sound Aspects, and New Albion Records. Future recording plans include production of collaborative works as well as annual recordings of new Rova compositions. Their most recent release is "Let's Go Totally Spinning" on Black Saint and "Electric Ascension" on Atavistic.
Rova Saxophone Quartet is now in residence at Center for New Music. The Center, located at 55 Taylor Street, is establishing a hub for the new music community, providing space to work, learn, rehearse and perform.
Hearings: ROVA's Electric Ascension