Four sax men, without benefit of other instruments, playing committed avant-garde music–and who are, I’m here to tell you, one of the more entertaining groups around. For some listeners, this stems from the unusual instrumentation; beneath the “novelty,” though, ROVA brilliantly explores the balance between improvisation and composition, between the individual and the group, and especially between music’s past conventions and the development of new techniques. Saturday night, ROVA–one of the first and, along with the World Saxophone Quartet, the best known of several similarly instrumented groups in modern music–opens up a weekend of unalloyed saxophonics. (The following night features a local sax quartet of A.A.C.M. performers led by Ernest Khabeer Dawkins.) Don’t let the lack of piano, bass, or drums scare you off: the rhythm coalesces from the intersecting melody lines, and variety is guaranteed by ROVA’s range–not only in pitch, from the baritone sax’s bottom to the sopranino’s top, but also their range of compositions and individual styles. Still, there’s an enormous purity to this sound. When they play ensemble, it’s like an animated organ works with saxophones instead of pipes. Saturday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, third floor, 341 W. Superior; 283-0531 or 898-5856.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gary Reyes.