Josh Roseman: Reimagining the Constellations
"Out of all the things I'm doing," says Roseman, "there's nothing in my life that's more grounding or more challenging than trying to play trombone. It's demanding on this very squirrelly, hard-to-get-to combination of levels. It demands a lot from me personally. It's a constant gut check. It forces you to be in touch with your priorities. And to check out your conduct. The value of that is you find yourself in a position with antiquated machinery in your hands and surrounded by people. You have this sense that comes from somewhere beyond your waking thoughts that you have something to express, something to offer, something to contribute, to help shape the moment. It might be something you do. Or it might be something you allow to happen. Or it might have to do with the way you're interacting with colleagues. The sense that you're becoming a catalyst for something large and useful to occur and dealing with others who are well aware of what's going on. That's very rare. That's worth doing while we're down here."
His fondness for the instrument is obvious. "The trombone is interesting because it's such a basic device. Like a violin. That you have to build your sound from scratch. When you hear somebody playing, who's really dealing with the trombone, you're hearing something that's very personal. And I love that about it. That's why with trombone players you hear a lot of individuality.
"Typically in jazz, guys will come from a number of different strains. There will be people who have really gone through the discipline of arriving at a full-focused post-J.J. (Johnson) precision. These guys have great sound and they studied the art of articulation and rhythmic placement. Figuring out how to blend and place their sound so that they're enhancing the environment. Then there are guys who come from more of a wide open, swaggering, swing-era school. They might not just be swing players, but they've inherited more from pre-bop schools. More New Orleans style of playing. That's awesome stuff too. That's baked into the identity of the instrument and super important. There's stuff in there only trombone can do.
"The guys who I tend to like are guys who synthesize those two primary avenues. There are others. Barry Rogers, for example, and what he was able to establish. The Latin music or the more Caribbean style. Somebody like Don Drummond. Guys like that tend to be exceptions. They may have synthesized a lot from these main influences, but they've come up with conclusions that are very individual. The truth is there are a lot of people like that who you can't really classify. They include Frank Lacy, who swings really hard but plays wide open and is totally extroverted and has massive psychological resonance to what he's doing. A brilliant player. Julian Priester, who is coming up out of J.J., but has always been his own man. There's a rich meta consciousness to his playing. He's a Zen master. He's like the sphinx of trombone. George Lewis. He's so virtuosic. It's almost like he's playing a polyphonic instrument. He's come up with his own answers. Or he's figured out a different set of questions that he wants to address. Gary Valente, who's taken Buster Copper's sound, Phil Harris' thing, even Grachan Moncur's thing, and pushed it to an extreme and done it in an absolutely complete, perfectly conceived way. Nobody told him to do that. He figured it out.
"Roswell. He's inherited so much of the spiritual consciousness of the music and what it means to play trombone. He's unbelievably underrated. Curtis Fuller is a rock star. Also totally underrated. People listen predominantly to his music from the late 50s. But if you were to hear him on the bandstand in modern times, this guy is a very powerful musician and plays very exquisitely. Robin Eubanks is like a mentor to me. He's somebody who also came up with his own way of approaching the instrument. He's somebody I continue to look up to. He's always expanding."
Among younger players, he mentions Hasselbring and Garchik, as well as Rick Parker and Ryan Snow among players he enjoys. "I can't even to begin to list all the young players there are so many. There are dudes in Europe who are doing super fun stuff. Guys like Nils Landgren. He's really cool. Not just in terms of his playing. He writes well. He puts together interesting ensembles and he finds interesting ways to make them work. He positions his instrument in a compelling way. That's kind of what I look for."