Tag Archives: Josh Roseman

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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WANGARATTA OPENS WARM & A LITTLE WACKY

Ausjazz blog catches the flavour of Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival on Friday, October 28, 2011

Linda Oh

Linda Oh

It was balmy, warm and threatening rain when festival artistic director Adrian Jackson welcomed patrons to the first gig of this festival, the Linda Oh Quartet. This group, with Sam Sadisgursky on tenor sax, Fabian Almazan on piano and Rhodes and Kendrick Scott on drums, played with zest, energy and interaction. Oh, who moved from Malaysia to Perth when she was two and now lives in New York, was a hit on her previous visit to Wangaratta, but her approach to the music then was cooler and less relaxed.

This quartet really works well, and the focus is less on Oh as a skilled young female bassist who has made it to New York (quite an achievement) and more on the creative work of the ensemble. The quartet included some tracks from its forthcoming album Initial Here, due out next year. They played The Ultimate Persona, Something’s Coming (West Side Story), Deeper Than Happy, Little House and No. 1 Hit.

On tenor sax: Sam Sadigursky

On tenor sax: Sam Sadigursky

There was a very enticing, warm feel to this ensemble. It was polished, with fluid transitions and no jagged edges, exhibiting a group dynamic without any hint that players were seeking the limelight. The band expertly explored a range of moods and emotions.

Kendrick Scott

On drum kit: Kendrick Scott

Kendrick Scott on drums was skilled and subtle, not resorting to any smash and bash. Sadigursky contributed some beautiful tenor sax passages and the combination of Almazan on Rhodes with Oh on electric bass guitar worked really well in Deeper Than Happy and Little House. Some who admire Oh’s upright bass skills may have preferred that she stay on that instrument throughout, but the change seemed to allow Almazan more prominence on the weatherbeaten Rhodes and that was no bad thing.

On keyboards: Fabian Almazan

On keyboards: Fabian Almazan

Next up, in the WPAC Hall, was pianist/composer Walter Lampe, an expatriate now living in Amsterdam, with Dale Barlow on sax and flute.

Walter Lampe

Walter Lampe

This was but a brief glimpse of this concert, hardly enough to justify any broad observations. Lampe was alone on stage when I entered, playing sumptious chords. When Barlow returned, he introduced their take on Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which he said would “take all sorts of liberties” with the original, though paying it great respect.

Dale Barlow

Dale Barlow

Barlow’s sax sound for this delightful deconstruction of the favourite tune was fat, air-filled and luscious as it drifted languidly over Lampe’s piano. Lampe dug out some strong, rumbling chords before some more delicate work in his solo. It was a beautifully laid-back interpretation (what else would you expect). Barlow took up the flute for the next tune. I had to leave, heading to
St Patrick’s Hall to catch James Muller Trio.

James Muller Trio at St Patrick's Hall

James Muller Trio at St Patrick's Hall

Again, this was a brief sojourn just to see what was afoot. Muller on guitar was with Alex Boneham (fresh from his engaging and compelling accompaniment of Geoff Page reading his poetry at the launch of extempore‘s volume of Page’s jazz poems entitled A Sudden Sentence in the Air) and Ben Vanderwal on drums. Apologies for that convoluted parenthesis.

These musicians are brimful of talent and this was, I imagine, a set with plenty to offer for fans of robust jazz with some rock influence thrown in. It is a treat to hear Muller in full flight, ably backed by Boneham and Vanderwal, but this was to be a treat for others. I had to catch Josh Roseman with the Australian Art Orchestra.

Josh Roseman

Quirky: Josh Roseman

This is where the “wacky” part of the heading of this post starts to make sense. The Australian Art Orchestra can always be expected to come up with something out of the ordinary, so this concert was always likely to be a little different, given Roseman’s taste for similarly thinking outside the square. He is one interesting cat, as they say in jazz milieu. And of course there was expatriate Barney McAll, brother of John McAll of Black Money fame, who is also “out there” in the nicest way.

Barney McAll

Barney McAll

So, who was there and what happened? Well, the laundry list of players was, for the AAO, Tim Wilson and Jamie Oehlers on saxophones, Eugene Ball and Paul Williamson on trumpets, Jordan Murray and James Greening on trombones, Geoff Hughes on guitar, Phillip Rex on double bass and “Mr Grabowsky” (as Roseman always addresses him, with obvious respect) on piano. For the Josh Roseman Unit, Barney McAll played Rhodes, clavinet (electrophonic keyboard instrument manufactured by Hohner, according to Wikipedia), laptop, piano, Chucky (a homemade musical instrument he describes as being “for textural enterprise and underwater landscapes as metaphor”) and maybe another device or two, Ted Poor was on drums and Peter Apfelbaum on drums, keyboards and saxophone.

Paul Grabowsky

Paul Grabowsky

What happened? Well, it is hard to describe, but quite amazing. At one point Roseman told the audience that he and Barney had been “ploughing a path through absurdity” for many years, though this was “the first time we have set foot together on a stage in his motherland/fatherland”. Roseman added (and this seems to sum up the night): “He is truly out of a tree and we are going to shake a tree”. And shake a tree they did.

Josh Roseman

On vocals: Josh Roseman

But how to describe the result is a challenge. I admit to having been quietly laughing inside on many occasions during the set, because there seemed to be so much absurdist humour built into the performance. Tungsten Mothra (an allusion to a fictional moth monster who is pitted against Godzilla in many Japanese movies) was “dedicated to a lady — a whole lot of them” and was intended (I think) to conjure up visions of cheer leaders. Unspeakable (these were all Roseman compositions), which included a solo by Apfelbaum on melodica, segued into The Execution Tune in an extraordinary multi-layered display, with histrionics, which I was sure featured a fantastic guitar solo by Hughes, but maybe it was produced on the clavinet.  It was hard to grasp exactly from whence the sounds originated. McAll pulled enough expressive faces to rival Jim Carrey, as well as leaping about behind his instruments to produce effects or overcome technical difficulties.

Bold as brass: Josh Roseman

Bold as brass: Josh Roseman

Manifest Density followed, before Invocation, a work commissioned by the SFJAZZ Collective. This was epic but episodic music, with the structure not that easy to uncover amidst the short interventions by many players and combinations thereof. Contributions were often brief and the overall effect often a busy marketplace of rhythms, textures, patterns and incursions.

The set closed with what Roseman described as the King Froopy All Stars theme song, a reference to his 11 or 12-piece big band. This was a sonic feast, with a rich, resonant solo from the bandleader, spiced with some effects. There was a strange, but appealing feel to this piece, with flamboyant piano and keyboards and some piercing “whistles” from Ball’s horn. The musicians were all serious concentration, but the music was laughing. McAll had some fun with effects, producing sounds reminiscent of bird calls. At the end the band went into hymn-like Salvation Army band mode, with Grabowsky really getting into it on piano.

Grabowsky and Oehlers

Hey, Paul, we could try that in Lost and Found tomorrow morning.

I have little doubt that this was challenging music even for these talented musicians, though often lots of fun to play. But it was also challenging for the listeners, because there was little to latch on to before the constantly changing and evolving music moved on. That’s no bad thing, especially in a festival where “really out there” music was not so prevalent in the program. But this fun night did not leave me feeling it was one of the AAO’s highlight performances or that I could walk out with the tag “memorable” embedded in my deteriorating memory bank. It was more music for the intellect than the soul.

ROGER MITCHELL

Note: For those who made it this far and intend to return for more on this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, I intend posting one overview of Saturday’s concerts, and one of Sunday’s, rather than attempting to review individual performances. These will be posted in the next few days. Please re-visit the blog, because pictures will be added gradually as time permits.

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