Josh Roseman: Reimagining the Constellations
He adds, "The arrangements that I write have been for an 11-piece band. At times we also do presentations and I'll take on somebody like Peter Apfelbaum. I'll employ him as an x-factor. He has the advantage of having cultivated some familiarity with the book from a number of different positions. He knows keyboard stuff, he's played with the big band on drums and also on saxophone. So he has a good understanding of the lay of the land. I hapen to appreciate the way the guy reacts. I know how he's developed his sense of license, so sometimes, to award him for having done quadruple duty and learning all this music, I'll just drop him in the middle of the group, take away his music stand and, figuratively speaking, put a blindfold on him and set him loose. In that case, it's a 12-piece."
The album is still being worked on. It could be out before the year's end, or in early 2011. It's yet untitled.
"We're still chipping away at it," he says in September. "We might actually do another session, because a couple of the pieces that I wrote are unreasonably, wonderfully, unmanageably dense. There's so much voodoo in them, we should take another crack at them. In another couple of cases, we weren't able to get to them, because we were getting the bread and butter done. It's a strategic question. I'm taking a closer look at that." While not finalized, there's enough for the composer to avow "it's pretty exciting stuff. It definitely puts a smile on my face. I just shake my head when I'm listening to it."
The King Froopy Allstars haven't played out much, but that's going to change. There may be concerts at the Brooklyn studio, as well as 2011 bookings in Australia and on the U.S. west coast. "We're looking for opportunities to play in New York as well, outside of our little laboratory environment."
His "little laboratory environment" is 58 North 6, where Roseman and staff are busy producing, putting on live shows and helping artists bring their projects to life.
"It's a studio, audio/visual lab, we call it. It's built upon a community model. Right now we're functioning as a semi-commercial recording studio," he explains. "We track video as well. We're preparing to move toward an open production model. I think there's a massive untapped wealth out there, as far as people's desire to support what's going on. We need to spend more energy developing tools that allow people to interact with projects they feel strongly about. As we get that rolling, the space will be functioning as a venue, a production space, and kind of a zone where projects will be able to be produced from soup to nuts and also funded. We've been chipping away at that for some time. It's been a pretty amazing learning project, for sure.
"In my day-to-day, I'm balancing doing intensive composition work, doing traditional trombone practice and coordinating outside sessions that are coming in, and finishing sessions that we've done here. It's a part man, part octopus gig. Right in the heart of Williamsburg [a Brooklyn neighborhood]. It's nice to be able to provide a resource to people who are doing work we care about it. That's the whole point behind it. We're looking forward to the point where we're able to do it more flexibly."
Roseman has been busy since his days playing with various kinds of bands in the Boston area. He attended the Berklee School of Music while still in high school and later attended the New England Conservatory of Music on scholarship. In the late 1980s, he began a long association with Oliver Lake, and through that had associations with the likes of Greg Osby, Frank Lacy, Marty Ehrlich, Michele Rosewoman and others.
He moved to New York in 1990, where his reputation got around and he started working with clarinetist Don Byron, as well as Joey Baron, Uri Caine and Dave Douglas. His attractive trombone sound, as well as his chops, got him involved in bands of fellow trombonists Roswell Rudd and Steve Turre. Robin Eubanks got him the gig with Dave Holland's big band. But Roseman still found time to get his own music going with other creative musicians, incorporating many styles of music. The Groove Collective in the 1990s, for example, used DJs and rappers.
In the latter '90s, he did projects with John Medeski, Ben Monder and Lester Bowie, among others. The Josh Roseman Unit (JRU) was one of those groups, and it is still alive today. One of those irons in the fire.
"That started as another compositionally expansive project, which I love doing. The problem is, it starts to become barely manageable," he says, chuckling. "I don't want it to become one of these projects where everybody shows up with reams and reams of music and it's a struggle to figure out how to get things controlled enough on stage so that it works." Roseman describes that work "defining lines and pushing the ensemble over them, dynamically, in terms of what's going on with harmony and tonality. In terms of what's going on with genre dynamics, juxtaposing different elements. And I'm looking for the most lightweight, easy, friendly, abbreviated way to deal with it. To have the advantage of playing with expert, intuitive musicians. Colleagues. Likeminded people.