Josh Roseman: Reimagining the Constellations
All these genre-stretching approaches are part of the creative makeup of Roseman, but he still enjoys playing straight-ahead jazz when called upon to do so. "I love playing the blues. I love to study harmony and apply myself to it. Practice Bach. Studying piano and all this stuff. But, there's a way where applying oneself to different 'schools,' let's say, is a really helpful way to flesh out your voice. It's like traveling. Wherever you go, there you are. You're in a totally different zone and people are generous with you and you don't know why. It's up to you to fashion a response. Then when you come back home, you've gone through an evolution somehow. So studying Fred Wesley is good for my free playing. Working with Slide Hampton is good for music that I play in funk bands. Working with someone like Roswell, or listening to George Lewis or listening to Julian Priester with Dave Holland, or having the opportunity to work with Ray Anderson and Craig Harris. Being stretched that way. Checking out people who've made it a priority to establish an independent identity that way leaves you with a sense of fearlessness and responsibility."
Josh Roseman (far right), with The Execution Quintet
Form isn't as important as the spirit behind it.
"I think there's been an evolution," Roseman says thoughtfully. "But I listen to Sonny Rollins every day. My favorite musicians, when you reach a certain level of mastery, you're dealing with uncapsizable players anyway. It's kind of like calling Charlie Parker a bebopper. He's not a bebopperhe's Charlie Parker. You listen to his music and you're turning on a fire hose. Anything that's dealing with genre and genre titles is secondary, or a reaction to what he did. Sonny Rollins is a national treasure. Somehow he's also radically underrated, because he transcends everything."
He brings the matter to a head when he opines, "The real significance of this music doesn't have anything to do with classifications. It's all about intent. It's all about spirit. It's all about heart. It's all about the spirit of fearless generosity."
And it starts back in the beginning, with Louis Armstrong. "That's the spiritual father of this music. That guy, in addition to being virtuosic and tireless and having unbelievable stamina, there's a spiritual presence in the music that is jaw- dropping, mind blowing," he says. "It'll change your viewpoint about stuff. You can find traces of this emotional DNA, this light, in every stage and era of the music. You can certainly hear it in Sonny Rollins' playing. You can hear it in Sun Ra. In John Coltrane. You hear it in Miles Davis. For me, you hear it in Roswell very brightly."
When it comes to definitions of jazz or swing, this young musician has his a personal perspective that guides him. "When you talk about swing as being one of the main components in the music you start to get into very interesting terrain where there's a little of the definition that has to do with metric rhythmic content. Then you get into a more esoteric way of looking at it: What is the effect of swing? Swing makes everybody feel great. Swing puts everybody at ease. Swing is something that makes not just the music work, but it makes situations work. It makes situations come together. If you were listening to Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club and those guys on that bandstand had been traveling together for years, and they know each other and they're playing all these inside jokes. They're supporting each other. They're doing all this stuff. It's swinging on an incredibly high level. But it just feels good to be in the room. That's the point. It feels good being in the room and there's something intense going on.
"The process of following the music, tracking it across different contexts, conditions, lineups ... It becomes a way of strengthening the connection. Because all that's left is your intent to make it work and work well and feel like something and to communicate something. I don't think about (his own music) as being 'free' at all. It's another way of stripping things down until just the intent remains. It's a way of honoring that. I guess that's a better way of putting it.
As a working, creative musician, as well as one who, as producer and studio proprietor, is aiding and abetting the creative efforts of others, Roseman has to be driven. And he is. Rising out of the music, and the process of creating it and getting it out to the public, is something more, he says.