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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 4:54 PM

ROVA Saxophone Quartet plays Detroit for the first time on Friday (hey, they’ve only been around since the late 1970s), which gives us an excuse to write about the bizarre contretemps involving ROVA saxophonist Larry Ochs, a disgruntled fan and Spanish police late last year.

According to an account in The Guardian (of London), drawn from Spanish press accounts, Ochs was playing with one his groups at Sigüenza Jazz Festival in December when armed cops came to give a listen while following up a complaint against the group.

The Guardian wrote:

Police decided to investigate after an angry jazz buff complained that the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core group was on the wrong side of the line dividing jazz from contemporary music.

The jazz purist complained his doctor had warned him it was “psychologically inadvisable” for him to listen to anything that could be mistaken for mere contemporary music.

According to a report in El Pais newspaper yesterday, the khaki-clad police officers listened to the saxophone playing and drumming coming from the festival stage before agreeing that the purist might, indeed, have a case.

According to the article, the promoters refused to refund the poor man’s money and the matter would go on to a judge.

While the Core group is a different configuration than Ochs will appear with here, there’s little doubt the aggrieved fan above would find ROVA likewise on the wrong side of the dividing line. And, in case, anyone reading has dividing-line issues, there’s a sample of ROVA’s music below. By the way, if you show up and don’t like what you hear, we doubt you’ll get much sympathy from Detroit cops.

ROVA appears, by the way, as part of one of the busiest jazz weekends in memory — outside of a festival. In fact it feels like a festival. ROVA plays Friday, March 19, at 8 and 9 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622; $11 for both sets, $8 for second set) while up the street at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the dazzling Hiromi performs solo piano sets at 7 and 8:30 p.m. (Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900; free with admission). That same night at the Dirty Dog, guitarist Pat Martino — dazzling, too, though in a totally different way — plays as he also will Saturday night with shows nightly at 6, 8:30 and 10 p.m. (97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms, 313-882-529).

Then Saturday rolls around with the Hot Club of Detroit presenting Djanjo Fest 2010 at Cliff Bell’s. The out-of-towners Howard Alden (guitar) and Anat Cohen (clarinet) join HCD, who, no doubt, will also be giving a taste of their about-to-drop CD (at 2030 Park Ave.; 313-961-2543). And at 7 and 9 p.m. at Kerrytown Concert House there’s Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio, featuring the masterful, thunder-handed pianist Weston with bassist Alex Blake (a master of flamenco-style bass strumming) and percussionist Neil Clarke (415 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2999; $10-$30).

On the horizon: It's not exactly in the metro area, but saxophonist John Zorn comes as close as Cleveland next week with his New Masada Sextet (featuring Dave Douglas, trumpet; Uri Caine, piano; Greg Cohen, bass; Cyro Baptista, percussion; Joey Baron, drums). Friday, March 26, 7:30 p.m., at Gartner Auditorium of the Cleveland Museum of Art (, 216-421-7350, 1-888-CMA-0033).

A few other notable gigs:

• Sonny Rollins plays Orchestra Hall on April 6.

• Joey DeFrancesco at the Dirty Dog on April 7-10.

• Pianist Danilo Perez salutes Dizzy Gillespie with an orchestra that reflects the internationalism Diz always promoted with the even more diverse pool of players on the scene today. In addition to the Panamanian-born Perez, there's David Sanchez (tenor sax), Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax) Amir ElSaffar (trumpet), Ben Street (bass), Adam Cruz (drums). At Hill Auditorium on April 8.

• Pianist Omar Sosa and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum at the DIA on April 23.

• Fred Hersch at the Central United Methodist Church, Detroit, on May 8.

• Pat Metheny Orchestron Project at Music Hall on April 14.

CODA: If you're the type that listens to avant garde jazz and, from time to time, wonder how the hell is this stuff organized (’cause you've figured, yup, it ain't all off-the-cuff noise), Larry Ochs' essay "Devices and Strategies for Structured Improvisation" is for you. It's a detailed but non-technical look behind the curtain at what a dozen-or-so of his pieces. I'm setting a bookmark to take it all in later. Maybe you'll want to too.

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