Jorge Rossy: When Rhythm Becomes Harmony

Marta Ramon By

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Jorge Rossy arrived at Berklee College of Music in 1990 to study trumpet, despite already being a professional drummer. In Boston, the front line musicians—most of them were his teachers at the school—would hire him to play important gigs. Even with this brief anecdote one can get an idea about the Spanish multi-instrumentalist's special charisma and faculties.

Since then, he has played with lot of fine musicians around the world, including saxophonists Mark Turner, Chris Cheek, Seamus Blake and Joshua Redman, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel—in a career spanning more than 25 years. International recognition came when he took the role of drummer in pianist Brad Mehldau's Trio, a formation that was completed by bassist Larry Grenadier. Rossy was a member of this trio for ten years, time that gave him the opportunity to tour around the world with two greatly admired musicians and friends. Rossy smiles when he remembers all the experiences he has shared with Mehldau and Grenadier, and even though there is not nostalgia in his words, some emotional feelings can be read in his eyes, as he stares to make sure that the important message behind his long dialog arrives with no doubts.

Jorge Rossy is a mystical kind of man, quiet and balanced, as is his playing on both drums and piano. Yes, he quit playing with Mehldau's Trio to restart his career as a pianist and composer. This direction change was almost ten years ago, when he decided to come back to Spain to focus on piano. Perseverance and hard work are the factors which define his extraordinary talent, something all his colleagues know and prais.

Rossy has just released his third album as a band leader, Iri's Blues (Moskito Records, 2012), with a renovated quintet, visiting Valencia, Spain to play with saxophonist Javier Vercher and bassist Masa Kamaguchi. It wasn't too cold outside, but he preferred to sit inside the café. He took off his jacket but kept his white kerchief and a black woolen hat on- -two details that define his appearance. With a croissant and a café latte, he started to talk about the piano life without realizing that he was moving the spoon in his cup the way he moves the brushes on his drums.

All About Jazz: How did you start your adventure as a pianist and bandleader?

Jorge Rossy: I am gonna tell you a kind of a long story... but I'll try not to make it too long. Pianist Albert Sanz is maybe the one who put me out of the closet as a band leader. I really am a fan of his, I really love him as a musician so he was the one that, in a way, convinced me to have my own trio. I had a gig and the bassist couldn't come, so I called Albert Sanz to play the Hammond organ] and we had a great time. After that he asked me to do a gig in trio with drummer RJ Miller, and I loved his playing from the first session. And I was very flattered because he wanted to play with me on piano.

When I started playing piano, I already knew a great musician who I played drums with, but I didn't want to use any of them because I didn't want to put myself in a situation where I would be playing with somebody just because he's my friend and he loves me, but maybe doesn´t like my piano playing so much. So, for me it was very important to feel accepted; I wanted to play with people that wanted to play with me for musical reasons, not just for friendship.

Jorge Rossy—Iri's Blues JR: AAJ: Why did you choose a trio formation with the Hammond?

JR: I like that if you have a piano trio with bass and drums the piano is often in charge of most of the melodies, but with the Hammond it is different; in some ways is nearly like a quartet because it can have some melodies. It's more like a band thing and I really like that, too.

AAJ: Your first CD, Wicca (Fresh Sounds Records, 2007), was with that formation, and then you increased it to a quintet with your son Félix, a trumpet player, and saxophonist Chris Cheek to record your second album, Ivlianus Suite (Contrabaix/Karonte, 2010).

JR: Yes, Chris Cheek is one the musician who I love the most. When I was comfortable enough playing piano I called him to play my music. We did a tour and it was a great feeling. I wrote for a quintet, which, in certain ways, was like a kind of a sextet because of the Hammond, it was like another voice. That was why I was going for a more orchestral, fuller sound. I just wanted to write the music and have a band with which the music would succeed the most, more than to feature myself as a pianist.

AAJ: And now, on Iri's Blues , you have exchanged the Hammond for a bass. What's the reason?

JR: Whenever I have been playing piano, mostly it has been with other harmonic instruments: with guitarist Jordi Matas, pianists Albert Sanz and Guillermo Klein. To have an another harmonic instrument in the band is great, but you have to be very careful to not get in the other's way, because you're sharing a role. And I really was hungry to have that space, to really feel full of sound. Anyway, I am very careful since I feel that, as a pianist, I am pretty far away from being a virtuoso. For me taking the piano seriously after playing ten years with Brad Mehldau is not an easy task [laughs].


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