Tag Archives: Jaco Pastorius

WHO’S ON THE WAX WHEN YOU DROP THE NEEDLE

INTERVIEW

Josh Roseman

Serious sonics: Josh Roseman (in an image from Iowa Summer of the Arts)

Ausjazz blog talks with Josh Roseman

When trombonist Josh Roseman talks music, it’s not long before the word “sonic” crops up.

Born in Boston to a Jamaican mother and Jewish father, Roseman says he was “born to synthesize” because he came from such disparate backgrounds, so that “it became part of my intellectual and aesthetic make-up to intuit different cultural streams”.

He embraced his mother’s music, but it was “not the same as growing up in Jamaica listening to reggae, but more like a treasure hunt” with “the music having heightened significance because [at home] it was the only place I could hear it”.

Roseman’s father was an amateur musician who played in a barbershop quintet and a jazz big band, sharing with his son a deep enthusiasm for music and the arts.

There were other musical influences. Roseman’s cousin Ed, who lived in the family home in his early 20s, was “writing his first symphony, building violins, transcribing Scott Joplin rags for acoustic guitar and playing them”, while Uncle Vern on his mother’s side was a blues guitarist.

Roseman describes his father’s playing of the trombone as “a mercurial sonic gift”, but he was first interested in exploring the “electric bass voice”, Steve Swallow’s sound and what to do with that instrument after Jaco Pastorius.

“I think that inquiry also informs what I’m doing now on trombone, where I’m interested in things that are a little bit below the surface sonically and you might have to root around for,” Roseman says. “As a band leader I try to create space so that some of these hidden things can bubble to the surface.”

As a young musician he saw the trombone as “a rich platform for a lot of ideas that had not been explored much” and thought it sad that the instrument was viewed as not suited for virtuosic playing as the trumpet or reed instruments.

“To me that’s like saying you can’t play note clusters on the drums — it’s kind of irrelevant,” he says on Gmail’s web phone from New York.

Roseman’s love of the instrument is evident when he is asked whether the Josh Roseman Unit will be offering the Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival audience something a lot different from his music on Treats for the Nightwalker, which was released before his previous visit to Australia in 2005.

“We’ll be playing a few of the same tunes, but what I’m putting forward as a player has accumulated a lot more depth sonically, a lot more dimension these days. It’s come about that the trombone has become a significant place of refuge for me now, so it’s really a pleasure to travel and set something up that people might enjoy and share in.

Josh Roseman

Heading solo: Josh Roseman (picture supplied)

“What’s important to me is my own level of sonic involvement when I have an instrument in my hands,” Roseman says. “It’s something I feel very very fortunate to do, and the evolution has made things simpler, a lot more minimalistic and more fulfilling.

“I’ve always been interested in acoustic and electronic texture, but we’re experimenting a lot more with dynamics, and juxtaposing unusual dynamic conditions with rhythm. It’s the kind of thing that can only really come about with a high degree of trust.

“The critical element is who you really want to listen to. If you have an ensemble and everybody is demonstrating a sense of support and interest in what your colleagues are doing on the bandstand there’s the opportunity for rare events to unfold.”

Roseman’s music has been described as “heavy groove jazz meets house meets ska and industrial funk”, but he has no time for labels. In fact, he happily “rebrands the ensemble almost every gig” — recently the Unit became “Slide Twombly and the Seven Seeds” — because “it’s like taking a wine you are really interested in and, if you ship it in a different crate, somehow it really forces you to use your taste buds once you uncork it”.

But behind this Roseman refusal to let our musical taste buds go stale, or the sense of humour evident in his naming of the track Olsen Twins Subpoena on his New Constellations Live in Vienna album (a psychological exploration of Jamaican ska trombonist Don Drummond’s music), is an artist on a serious mission to play host to his audience.

As he describes it, “Anybody who has hosted a party and has been surrounded by friends and has wanted to play music as a DJ just to make people feel welcome or to make people unwind or encourage them to interact on a different level will understand it’s not really about labels. It’s about sound, it’s about songs, it’s about the expression of the people who are on the wax when you drop the needle.”

Roseman says the majority of his concerts in the past year have been with his big band or solo.

“The solo concerts are one of my favourite things to do. They are totally improvised. At some point I’ll be cultivating a codified body of work for trombone.”

He says that, at Wangaratta, “I’m sure we’ll do a little bit of it. It’s a nice thing to do.”

As the Unit (or whatever name pops up) Josh Roseman will play with Barney McAll on piano and keyboards, Peter Apfelbaum on keyboards and sax, and Ted Poor on drums.

With the Australian Art Orchestra he expects to have “carve out some interesting spaces” with Paul Grabowsky and have “a wholesome if mischievous time together”.

Wangaratta Jazz Festival this weekend is set for a sonically rich party.

ROGER MITCHELL

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Oh to hit the right note

Linda Oh
Bassist Linda Oh

Two strangers will meet on stage at Wangaratta, writes Roger Mitchell

THEY seem so different. She plays bass — electric and upright. He plays trumpet. She is 25, was born in Malaysia and grew up in Perth listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is 67, was born in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up listening to his parents’ 78rpm Jazz at the Philharmonic records.

Both live in New York, but they have never met. In a few days they will share a stage at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz, in a quartet with pianist Mike Nock and drummer Tommy Crane.

One of the joys of this festival, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, is that Linda Oh and Charles Tolliver, who are from such different generations and genres in jazz, can link up.

Yet they have much in common. Each was inspired to play when given an instrument — Tolliver’s grandmother, Lela, gave him a cornet; Oh’s uncle gave her an electric bass. Both were initially self-taught and both considered other careers— Tolliver as a pharmacist, after working for a local apothecary, and Oh as a lawyer.

Both musicians like challenges and both are perceptive, intelligent and thoughtful.

Asked about the importance of music in people’s lives, Oh says, “It’s a shame these days that everything is so overrun by TV and advertisements and reality TV that a lot of people don’t have the energy to go out to live music or put an album on and listen to it from start to finish.

“If Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie said to everyone ‘You should go and see a jazz show’ everyone would go. We need more spokespeople.”

Tolliver’s view, fittingly, is borrowed from Art Blakey: “He would come up to the microphone and, in that inimitable voice of his, say ‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, we are here to wash away the dust from your everyday lives’. I think that’s it.”

Linda Oh says her entry to jazz was “a little backwards”, beginning with the fusion of Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea and then being turned completely around by Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson on the album Night Train.

Driven by the desire to “do something that I didn’t know much about and to learn as much as I could”, she studied bass at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, graduating with honours. Oh says Perth had many talented musicians who were “very honest about what you need to do to get better”.

Winning a Sisters in Jazz competition in 2004 gave her a chance to visit New York. She was “pretty blown away, but not just in awe of it — I checked out local musicians and universities and saw there was so much stuff to be learned out here and I knew I had to do it”.

Oh won a scholarship to Manhattan School of Music, where she completed a Masters in Jazz-based Performance and met trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Obed Calvaire, with whom she recently released her acclaimed debut album, Entry. With Oh and Crane, Akinmusire will perform tunes from that album at Wangaratta.

Oh has never played with Tolliver, though she has heard a lot of his music. “Tommy went to New School University, where Charles has an Art Blakey Ensemble, so it will be a very interesting mix, especially with Mike Nock — I’m a huge fan.”

Tolliver recalls playing with Blakey’s Messengers “for a minute, replacing Lee Morgan, a long time ago”, but as other names of jazz identities from his past tumble out there is no self-promotion.

He says it was “an act of providence of miraculous proportions” that the young dropout from Howard University met bandleader Jackie McLean and within six months was making his first recording.

Labels such as hard bop, bebop and post bop meant little, Tolliver says. “We understood that was just print journalism. We were just trying to expand on what Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk had laid out there.”

Tolliver admits to many influences on his sound, including Gillespie (“He’s the go-to guy for inspiration”), Charlie Shavers, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Durham, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Booker Little, Fats Navarro and Roy Eldridge.

But Tolliver’s improvising involves taking risks. “You’re really trying to make a statement of your emotional self on that instrument and the only way I can see to do that is to get busy exploring something right away. I need to have that little bit of danger there that I might not be able to get out of what I’m trying to do.”

Tolliver will perform twice with Sydney’s Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra, playing tunes from With Love and the recent Emperor March. With the quartet he’ll play a selection from the Mosaic Select box set.

Wangaratta Festival of Jazz starts on Friday, October 30

An edited version of this article appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper, Melbourne, on October 28