Venue Details

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
3301 Lyon Street San Francisco, CA 94123
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In 1965, shortly after receiving “Artist of the Year,” “Best Tenor Saxophonist,” and “Jazz Hall of Fame” honors in Down Beat magazine, John Coltrane recorded his daring, monumental Ascension — the fifty-minute large ensemble piece that challenged audiences with passages of intense group improvisation and powerful solos.

With its dense harmonies and explosive dialogues between soloists and rhythm section, Ascension, although now widely regarded as a masterwork, originally inspired heated debate in the music world. Jefferson Airplane rocker Grace Slick famously derided the work as “Coltrane’s acid trip,” while biographer Eric Nisenson, in his controversial book Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest, describes it as an “overwhelmingly powerful piece of organized sound…which belongs in a sixties time capsule, since it perfectly captures much of the furious temper of the times.” For his part, jazz critic and historian Gary Giddins, in Visions of Jazz, counters that “contrary to its reputation as the apogee of ’60s free jazz rants, [ Ascension ] goes down as smooth as bourbon.”

Now forty years old, Coltrane’s Ascension is renowned among large ensemble jazz works for its monumental scale, raw emotional power, and historic importance to the evolution of improvised music.

SFJAZZ celebrates Ascension in electrifying style in this performance by a dream team of master improvisers — OrkestRova — an electric big band with saxophones, strings, guitars, samples, electronics, percussion, and guest soloists, including:

The Rova Saxophone Quartet, “one of the most significant ensembles of its kind” (Chicago Tribune), founded in 1977, is an important leader in the movement of genre-bending music with roots in post-bop free jazz, avant-rock, and new music, as well as traditional and popular styles of Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States. With stellar musicianship, Rova’s members — Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Steve Adams and Bruce Ackley — have explored the crossroads of composition and collective improvisation through dozens of international tours and acclaimed recordings, including the 30 th anniversary presentation of Coltrane’s Ascension at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, released in 1995 on the Italian Black Saint label.

Guitarist Nels Cline, born in Los Angeles in 1956, performed throughout the United States and Europe, as well as improvised music circuits, before joining the rock band Wilco in spring 2004. He remains active in the improvised music scene and fronts his own band, The Nels Cline Singers.

Best known worldwide as an improvising guitarist, Fred Frith is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and recording artist who has for more than 30 years situated himself where rock and new music meet. He is a professor of composition at Mills College in Oakland, California.

A founding member of the Tin Hat Trio, Carla Kihlstedt is known for her genre-bending violin virtuosity. A collaborator with many artists from music’s leading edge, including Don Byron, Tom Waits, and John Zorn, Kihlstedt is also an accomplished composer whose works are featured on her recently released solo debut Two Foot Yard.

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