Josh Roseman: Reimagining the Constellations
That band has not been playing out live much over the last year or so, but Roseman hopes to bring it back again. "The New Constellations record was an examination of roots, early ska music. Trying to find ways to combine that with more modern performance-type ...dealing with electronic music. Different ways of thinking about time and space," he says. "It's kind of ironic as I think about it because those improvising musicians back in Jamaica at that time had a very open approach to time and space. You can hear the lineage. You can hear how that music evolved into dub music. The premise of it was to combine a really intuitive lightweight, lean, mean hard-hitting rhythm concept, with painting with a broad palette, using electronics, and to combine it with a really cool front line. Three horns. Use some sort of post-post-post Jazz Messengers [chuckles] taking everything we know about three- horn writing and combine it with underpinnings of ska and electronic music and more progress, forward-leaning things. Shake it up and see what comes out."
The James Carney Group, at The Knitting Factory, 2008
From left: James Carney, Josh Roseman, Ted Poor, Noah Jarrett
He's already eyeing what will happen when the group gets to reconvene. "A big suite which combines new music, added extensive harmonic writing for horns, with dance hall reggae rhythms that are super minimalist and funky. Nasty. Very mean sounding music. So you have this really grounded ... super forward, tough-sounding stuff going on in the basement. And then something very expansive going on, on the top. With normal dance hall music, you have great incidences of poly-tonality going on. The groove will be going on in one key and somebody will be chatting on top, and that will be going on in different harmonic zones. Very minimalist. It's compelling and it convinces people to think and walk and shift their head space in a different direction. If you were to push that in a different direction, to the next level, where you're starting from a purposely poly-tonal point of view, then imagine what the possibilities are."
Imaging the possibilities is a big part of Roseman's approach. "I'm disciplining myself with the next step," he notes. "Kind of keep some kind of a lean street sensibility to it. Taking my lessons from people like Madlib, and all this really intense and engaging underground hip-hop stuff that's going on now. And also to put it together and present it in a way that we have a lot of options, with the technology. I've been bringing electronic drums to gigs and a lot of analog sense and flexible, fluid ways of triggering and doing live sequencing and things like that. That stuff can be a handful. It's very rewarding though."
Roseman's current recording project is with a larger unit he calls the King Froopy Allstars. It has two other trombonesJacob Garchik and Curtis Hasselbringand three trumpets among the 11 pieces. It gives Roseman more and different things to pour into his creative funnel to see what comes running out. He admits it's a bit crazy to pursue the larger project in these economic times. But he presses on nonetheless to find new soundscapes.
"It's a question of trying to team up with people, elements, situations, sounds, strategies that are really popping off, and to combine them and create shapes that geometrically are greater than the sum of their parts," says Roseman. "So it's a risky big band by design. The writing is risky. There are things harmonically, rhythmically, dynamically and strategically that are not meant to be easily resolved. It's more like presenting raw materials to the ensemble and giving the ensemble an opportunity to chip away at it and work it out. As opposed to coming up with a prefab, play-by- numbers situation that is going to leave a good impression.
"Then other tunes are very intricate and challenging to execute," he notes. "There are people (in the band) who are all-out secure musicians and other people who are amazing live wires. I have the opportunity to set them loose. Like free-range bulls in a china shop and figure out what they can wreck. Do the calculations and play with the math afterward. That's kind of the way it's designed." He likes the music to be pushed, get a visceral reaction from the listener and give people "different ways of thinking about things."