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Saxophonist/Flutist Roxy Coss at William Paterson U., New Jersey

David A. Orthmann By

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Roxy Coss
William Paterson University
Wayne, New Jersey
April 7, 2008

"I wanted to show you all of the different music I like," said Roxy Coss, after remarking that she doesn't talk very much on stage. The absence of between-songs patter didn't matter because Coss's talents as an instrumentalist (tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute), arranger, and bandleader spoke for themselves. In many ways Coss's Senior Recital was a jazz fan's dream: the opportunity to catch a gifted young performer before the word gets out, and feeling certain that she's only going to get better.


Most notable about the eight selection, hour-plus set was that Coss didn't try to funnel everything through a single stylistic template. As she embraced compositions ranging from Modest Mouse's "March Into the Sea" to J.S. Bach's "Allegro from Sonata in C Major for Flute/Continuo" to John Coltrane's "Dear Lord," it was evident that Coss possessed the interpretative skills to mount the ambitious program.


Coss utilized various combinations of eight pieces in ways that made each selection distinctive. The Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields standard "On the Sunny Side of the Street" was done in a conventional, easygoing fashion by a jazz quintet featuring her tenor sax and the trumpet of Nathan Eklund. "March Into the Sea," by Indie rockers Modest Mouse, lurched from a rowdy anthem to reflective folk-like interludes with the help of Mariel Berger's accordion, Alex Foote's electric guitar, and the electric bass of Matt Aronoff. Coss's pensive original "I Think So" featured an acoustic trio consisting of her soprano sax, Aronoff's bass, and the drums of Shawn Baltazor. Taken at a slow-to-medium tempo, Clark Terry's "Joonjii" was done to perfection by a sextet with a front line composed of Coss's tenor, Eklund, and trombonist Cameron MacManus.


The distinguishing feature of Coss's solos was a willingness to develop themes thoroughly, always drawing attention to the horn's—particularly the tenor's—rich tone. Throughout "On the Sunny Side of the Street" she created melodies in a purposeful way, before executing careening lines and inserting one long bent note into the second chorus. On "March Into the Sea," as the band whipped up a cyclone-like momentum, she spit out notes in a fury not unlike a free jazz player such as Albert Ayler. Coss's work in "Joonjii" was a set highlight. She started with short, stumbling phrases and briefly plumbed the lower register of the horn. Soon the tenor cried and preached before, following a couple of long locomotive tones, it proceeded with even greater agitation and urgency. Yet Coss resisted straining for a crowd-pleasing cathartic climax.


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