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Take Five With Roswitha aka Rose Bartu

Roswitha By

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Meet Roswitha aka Rose Bartu aka Queen Rose:

Originally from Austria, Roswitha is a singer/songwriter, violinist, and producer. On her latest album, Destiny, the renowned jazz and classical artist lives her own dreams, making the bold move to step out as a singer/songwriter. Here, she embraces her total musicality and tastefully integrates her instrumental virtuosity within a musical style she describes as jazz-rock-pop. It's an elegantly eclectic blend of jazz, classical, R&B, hip-hop, rock, and pop that showcases her gorgeous compositions and soulfully angelic vocals. Previously, she has had an esteemed career as Queen Rose, a topflight violinist appearing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, at the Latin Grammy Awards, featured on MTV's Unplugged with Trey Songz and on many recordings, including Ashanti, Elle Varner and Blitz the Ambassador. Under the name Rose Bartu, she has also built a highly respected jazz profile, sharing stages with such icons as Abbey Lincoln, Billy Hart, JoAnne Brackeen and Butch Morris. She has also released the delightfully exotic Cherchez la Verité, a silky jazz album with violin, sensual vocals, and limber Afro-Cuban grooves.

Roswitha also leads her own bands, performing at celebrated venues like The Blue Note and Knitting Factory while touring Europe. She has notched over 50 productions, arrangements, compositions, and performance credits on over 19 released albums, videos and film soundtracks. She holds bachelor's of fine arts from The New School Jazz Program, NYC, and Anton Bruckner Private University, Linz, Austria.

Instrument(s):

Violin, vocals.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Maghreid McCrann, Gerald Beal, John Stubblefield, Kenny Werner, John Blake Jr., Richard Harper - Choir Conductor (voice), and many more.

Influences: John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Chaka Khan, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and Sia Furler.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I was 12 years old. I already played recorder, violin, guitar, and piano. The violin became my primary instrument and I started to dream (in the Austrian Alps) of touring the world.

Your sound and approach to music:

When I played traditional jazz I studied many of the masters intensively (John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker) and transcribed lots of solos. I ended up stepping away from jazz just to find out that its influence has never left me. On my last recording, Destiny, I focused on the songs and messages I wanted to share. I was looking to find the best musical landscape for each song and get the right feeling. I wrote the songs and looked for the best melodies. Many of the hooks just came to me, but I refined a lot of melodies and lyrics in the end.

I also put a lot of detail in the production process. I can best compare it to being an architect or visual artist. I constructed each song individually and looked for the perfect musicians to complement them. I knew exactly what I wanted and gave detailed instructions and specific melodies for them to play. Then I added "brushes" (sounds) here and there to finish up the painting. Producing that way is very different than what I did on the previous record, which was writing the songs on paper and then recording them with a live band in a few hours. My goal was to find my own sound, as a singer, songwriter, and producer. On this record, the violins are not so often featured, but all parts were improvised and then refined if necessary. That's how I come up with my ideas—I play around and often I feel like I'm in a musical playground.

I will always remember a story Joe Zawinul told me when he took me out for lunch. When he heard [Julian "Cannonball" Adderley]'s band on radio and couldn't tell if it was him or Barry Harris on piano anymore, he threw out all the records he had and decided to no longer listen to other peoples' music. Instead, he started to focus on his own sound.

Your teaching approach:

My main focus when I teach is to empower my students and make direct correlations to life and anything with which they are struggling. I believe that, as a teacher, I am a mentor and coach, and I want to have an impact beyond the lesson.

Your dream band:

I used to dream of working with some of my most admired Artists, from Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack, to name a few, all of which I had already had the honor to meet in person. I have been lucky that I've worked with some amazing jazz artists in my own Bands, like Billy Hart, JoAnne Brackeen, Danny Grissett, and Vicente Archer).

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