Rova Saxophone Quartet Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Rova, which comprises saxophonists Jon Raskin, Bruce Ackley, Larry Ochs, and Steve Adams (who replaced Andrew Voigt in 1988), is the gold standard against which all other saxophone quartets must be measured. Each of its members has a distinct approach to his instrument and a personal aesthetic, and they’ve expressed them in settings as disparate as Ochs’s pancultural improvisations with guitarist Fred Frith and sound artist Miya Masaoka (who specializes in the koto) and Adams’s jittery pop-meets-classical tunes with Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. Together they’ve forged a unique, recognizable group voice that’s steeped in their common mastery of free improvisation but is also applicable to rigorous compositions. Though the group’s members sometimes write their own music, its repertoire also includes pieces composed by esteemed vanguardists such as Alvin Curran, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn as well as album-length explorations of the structural and expressive potentialities of fellow saxophonists Steve Lacy and John Coltrane. In order to perform Coltrane’s large-band blowout Ascension, Rova added electronic musicians, electric guitarists, and a rhythm section, but it still managed to sound like itself on one of the most iconic long-form works of free jazz. While Rova often plays with guests these days, its first Chicago date in nine years will feature the quartet on its own, performing two sets of pieces it’s never showcased here before.   v