JOSH ROSEMAN UNIT — EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

ROGER MITCHELL reflects on two concerts by the Josh Roseman Unit at Wangaratta on October 29 & 30, 2011:

Josh Roseman Unit

What next? Barney McAll, Jamie Oehlers, Josh Roseman and Chris Hale

Sunday at Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival brought the opportunity to revisit and reflect, as well as to hear a moving suite performed live, and something well out of left field involving a choir and two pianos.

The day’s lesson came early, but not at the jazz mass featuring Leigh Barker’s New Sheiks. One festival soon I will make it to Holy Trinity Cathedral for that service. No, the lesson to which I refer is that no concert — especially if it involves overseas artists — should be assumed to be a carbon copy of one delivered by the same band the night before.

Of course, that can happen. Sunday ended with Linda Oh Quartet playing much the same material, albeit in slightly different order, as it had in the opening concert. That was a little disappointing and, coupled with the fact that band and audience were tired, may have contributed to an outing that lacked some pizzazz.

But for 11am Sunday, in what would usually be a tougher timeslot than the gig which closed Saturday night’s proceedings, Josh Roseman decided to add to his band’s line-up, bringing in Chris Hale on electric bass guitar and Jamie Oehlers on tenor sax.

Chris Hale

Joining the Unit: Chris Hale sits in at Wangaratta.

I’m not sure whether these two made the difference, but Sunday morning’s seemed to be the Unit’s best outing in the festival.

Not that Saturday night’s concert was at all lacklustre. There’s a lot going on in this band, but it is subtle and perhaps somewhat camouflaged by Roseman’s looseness and wit. I suspect he is closely monitoring every nuance, but doesn’t let that show. The night gig lasted almost two hours, opening with the sonically luscious and rhythmically rich Regression, then the brief and gentle layerings of Fortunato, which explored the rich trombone timbre, followed by some of The Suite — a work commissioned by SFJazz — that successively brought to mind Gest8, Ari Hoenig Quartet and Jimmy Smith as I listened with a smile on my face. Roseman, amid his banter, referred to having “an opportunity to redefine voices” and that seemed to make sense in The Suite as his input on ’bone seemed soft, warm and cuddly.

Still in Saturday’s concert, the Unit played a piece by one of Rosman’s idols, Don Drummond, entitled Thoroughfare (“Help me, Don”, Roseman said a couple of times, in a prayer of sorts), Sedate Remix — a surreal, calm piece in which we could have been in a church for a start and later somewhere out there with Sun Ra — and finally Theme, Motormouth and Swartz, named after a fictional legal firm, with some pretty special special effects from Barney McAll and Peter Apfelbaum.

Oehlers, Roseman, Hale

Fine tuning: Josh Roseman makes some in-flight adjustments.

Having revisited that concert, and realised there was a lot to it, I’d still have to say the next morning brought us something more special. It’s hard to say why, except that this had less banter and a more serious feel. After the Bob Marley tune Crazy Baldheads came Blues for Austria, a toe-tapping piece, which I loved, that opened and closed with muted horns and included great drum work by Ted Poor. The Swamp Tune again ventured into the surreal, with Oehlers allegedly playing only one note, Apfelbaum very effective on Korg and Roseman adding some tiny touches of fine tuning. Suddenly, at Roseman’s direction, drums, horns and all manner of keyboards kicked in for a rollicking finish.

The concert finished with the title track from Treats for the Nightwalker. Roseman is an intriguing individual and I look forward to seeing where he ventures in musical experimentation, along with the madcap Barney McAll. If a trombone solo recording eventuates, I’d like to hear that.

As for the moving suite performed live, and something well out of left field involving a choir and two pianos, the next post will tell all.

Note: Pictures will be added gradually.

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