Joe Rosenberg’s Affinity


Joe Rosenberg (ss), Buddy Collette (as, fl, bcl), Rob Sudduth (ts), Michael Silverman (b), Bobby Lurie (dm)

THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ ON CD - Richard Cook/Brian Morton – 4th Edition 1999 * * * *

The Dolphy record is a delight, and the presence of old chum Collette lifts it more than a notch.  Having already covered the most distinctive Dolphy original, the choice of material is slightly unexpected, mostly material associated with the great saxophonist (Booker Little’s ‘Bee Vamp’, Jaki Byard’s ‘Ode To Charlie Parker’, Mingus’s ‘So Long Eric’) rather than written by him.  As before, Sudduth is the linchpin harmonically, tying together themes and ideas that are as willful and wayward as anything that’s been attempted by the so-called avant-garde since.

ALL-MUSIC GUIDE • Scott Yanow - January 1998  

A Tribute to Ornette Coleman (which featured Dewey Redman on tenor as guest soloist) was a major success.  Their Eric Dolphy set is not quite on that level.  Affinity (Joe Rosenberg on soprano, bassist Michael Silverman and drummer Bobby Lurie) welcomes Dolphy's old friend Buddy Collette on alto and flute.  Although the material (six songs recorded by Dolphy, but only "Booker's Waltz' written by him) does push the bop-based Collette to play more advanced solos than usual, the overall interpretations are still more conservative than Dolphy's from over 30 years before.  The solos during such songs as "Bee Vamp", "Fire Waltz", and "So Long Eric" by the quintet are fine, but are generally overshadowed by the original versions.

IMPROJAZZ • P. L. Renou 1998

Le propos de Rosenberg est d’un musicien vrai.  Quand la (sur) producti courante abus se l’ “Hommage A`...” au point d’ en faire des “Dommage pour...”, il faut accueillir celui qui se montre homme de memoire, qu ressource et probite distinguent, qu’emporte au-dela` de lui-meme un elan manifeste, d’amour, a la rencontre compagnons des heures pionieres.  La presence fine et insinuante de Buddy Collette, celle, irradiante de Dewey Redman - aussi peu demonstratifs que possible, simplement la comme s’ils n’avaient jamais bouge, porteurs de la seve intac  te du jazz tel qu’il se transmet depuis le grand Louis -, ces presenc portent le temoignage que sous le tronc chenu, cette seve circule, ge nereuse et vivace.  Le vieil arbre se moque bien des rejets qui se present vers la lumiere, a` l’ etouffer: il a l’ eternite pour lui.  C’est avec cette assurance tranquille que s’emprunte la voie droite, celle d’ un repertoire juste: les valses dolphyennes (Bookers’ Waltz, Fire Waltz), la matrice mingusienne (So Long Eric), le sommet poignant et la revolte (Mendacity), le tribute de l’ amitie (B. Little, J. Byard: Bee Vamp, et Ode To Charlie Parker) d’ une part, les compositions emblamatiques d’Ornette de l’ autre (de Peace a` Beauty Is A Rare Thing).  Si le sopraniste parait de prime abord plus inspire dans le contexte dolphyen, epaule par le tres remarquable Rob Sudduth, bourru, energique, essentiel, c’ est qu’ il faut etre taille dans le chene pour faire piec a` l’ intimidant Redman (Dewey) dont la folle fuee de Sphinx donne la (de`)mesure. L’enregistrement public, au son sans artifice, ne contribu pas peu a` l’ authenticite de ces deux volets qui, joints au Affinity Plays Nine Modern Jazz Classics (Music & Arts 834) dessinent les contours d’une personnalite attachante qui se livre sans fards dans son jeu de soprano, clair, delie, peu enclin aux cliches et John Carter, de scen Californienne fidele a ce qu’ elle fut, creative et negligee.

Rosenberg's purpose comes from an authentic musician.  At a time when regular (over) production abuses of "Tribute to..." to a point of transforming them into a "de-Tribute to...", then we must greet the one who shows himself as a memory, distinguished by resource and integrity, taken beyond himself by a clear outburst of love towards companions of the pioneering hour.  The subtle and insinuating presence of Buddy Collette and the irradiant one of Dewey Redman, with as little flash as possible, simply here, as if they had never moved, bearer of the original sap of jazz as transmitted since the great Louis ___, these presences bear the witness that, under the bark of the old oak this sap circulates, generous and alive. The old tree doesn't care about the sapling's rushing towards light to the point of suffocating him:  he has eternity in front of him.  It's with this serene assurance that the correct path is taken, the one of a right repertoire: the waltz's of Dolphy (Bookers' Waltz, Fire Waltz), the Mingus original (So Long Eric), the poignant peak and rebellious (Mendacity), the tribute of friendship (B. Little, J. Byard: Bee Vamp, and Ode To Charlie Parker) on one side, and Ornette's  emblematic compositions on the other hand (from Peace to Beauty Is A Rare Thing).  If the sopranoist seems at first sight more inspired in the Dolphyian context, helped by the very remarkable Rob Sudduth, strong, energetic, essential, this is because, you must be strong to play with the very intimidating Redman (Dewey) who's rush in the Sphinx gives the tempo. The live recording with it's sound without gimmick contributes to the authenticity of these two parts which, joined with Affinity Plays Nine Modern Jazz Classics draw the main lines of this friendly personality who gives himself without unnecessary ornaments in his soprano playing, clear, distinct, not over using cliches and with a melodic taste very often enviable.  Trained with Collette and John Carter, now settled in Los Angeles, Rosenberg confirms the continuity of the Californian scene, loyal to what it was, creative and neglected.

SOS JAZZ - January 1997

Throughout the history of jazz, individual artists, like Louis Armstrong and Lester Young, have contributed to the evolution of this music.  For a certain few, their sound will be forever instantly identifiable and associated with an era.  Because of their unique voice, most artists shy away from the vast body of music left behind.  Joe Rosenberg's quartet Affinity, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts presented two concerts in 1995 honoring two of the most unique voices in modern jazz history, Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman.  Affinity is made up of Rosenberg (soprano saxophone), Rob Sudduth (tenor saxophone), Michael Silverman (bass), and Bobby Lurie (drums).  The band invited Dolphy friend and mentor Buddy Collette to sit in for this live San Francisco recording.  Collette, a major figure from the west coast jazz scene of the fifties and sixties, is an added attraction for this proficient ensemble.  The set includes music written by Dolphy, "Booker's Waltz," or music forever associated with him, "Bee Vamp," Ode To Charlie Parker," and Fire Waltz."  Opposed to imitate, Collette's alto saxophone and flute pays homage to Dolphy, dropping a speech pattern here and a quote there.  Collette, one of only a few true jazz flutist is a perfect match for "Fire Waltz."  The disc ends with the Mingus composition "So Long Eric."  As in the workshop tradition, players stretch out making a joyful noise.

Dewey Redman takes Rob Sudduth's tenor spot for Affinity's tribute to Ornette Coleman.  Besides Ornette, Redman  is perhaps the only saxophonist possessing the Ornette sound.  A member of Coleman's group for six years and co-leader of Old and New Dreams, the Ornette repertory band, Dewey, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell kept the acoustic message of Ornette burning.  Of the six lengthy tunes, five are familiar to most including "Blues Connotation," "Peace," and "The Sphinx."  The final Coleman piece "Little Symphony," a seldom covered gem, allows the band to showoff not only what Ornette meant but how they have applied his music to their own music.

JAZZ PODIUM - Reinhard Köchl - March 1997

Ein weißgott mutiges Unterfangen des Trio Affinity” um den Sopranosaxophonisten Joe Rosenberg, die rastlose, allumfassende Suche nach der eigenen musikalischen Identität mit einer Homage an ihre vielleicht größten Vorbilder voranzutreiben.  “Abenteuerlich” wäre gleichfalls ein gutes Adjektiv, möglicherweise würde “gefährlich” aber sogar besser passen.  Denn die intensive Beschäftigung mit den beiden Godfathers des “New Thing”, Ornette Coleman und Eric Dolphy, sowie das Bemühen um ein möglichst originalgetreues Replikat ihres unvergleichlichen Sounds birgt fast ebenso viele Risikomomente, wie ein HochseilSpaziergang über einer windigen Schlucht.  Es mag deshalb auf  den ersten Blick als kluger Schachzug erscheinen, wenn sich Joe Rosenberg die Dienste zweier höchst beschlagener Weggefährten der Legenden sicherte, um diese als Katalysator in deren Rolle schlüpfen zu lassen.  Dewey Redman beispielsweise tüftelte von 1968 an sechs Jahre lang mit Ornette Coleman in leerstehenden New Yorker Fabrikhallen an der Ausformung des heute fast zum Modetrend hochstilisierten Begriffs “Harmolodic”.  Nach dem Ende der liaison mit Don Cherry kam Redman gerade zur rechten Zeit, um dem Soundschöpfer wieder einen auf Entfaltung in der Anpassung ausgerichteten, kongenialen Partner abzugeben.  Der Tenorsaxophonist mit der vokalen Phrasierung und der bluesigen Wärme verinnerlichte neben Cherry wohl am konsequentesten Colemans Leitmotiv, eine Melodie zu jeder Zeot von der spontanen Idee ausformen zu lassen.  Folglich vermied der knorrige 65jährige schon im Ansatz jeden Ruch des Plagiats.  Seine eigenwilligen Deutungen von Klassikern des alten Freundes wie “Blues connotation”, “Peace”, “Face the bass”, “Beauty is a rare thing” und “Little symphony” strotzen vor Kraft, Ideenreichtum, rhythmisch reizvollen, oft swingenden Motiven und vielen anderen überraschenden Wendungen.  Auch die Jungs von “Affinity” (neben Rosenberg noch Michael Silverman, b, und Bobby Lurie, ds) begreifen schnell, sich ohne vorgegebene Texturen, ohne starre Regeln und Formen, ohne präformiertes Rollenverständnis in eine bunte Spirale der Phantasie treiben zu lassen; die eigentliche Krux der Harmolodic. Nicht zuletzt wegen der souveränen Vorstellung Dewey Redmans gerät dieser Live-Mitschnitt vom 6. Mai 1995 in San Francisco zu einem der seltenen Tribute, die das Urteil “gelungen” auch wirklich verdienen.  Anders dagegen Buddy Colette, die Gallionsfigur für Rosenbergs Dolphy-Projekt. Der Multiinstrumentalist aus Los Angeles zählt seit jeher zu den führenden Vertretern der West Coast-Szene. Parallelen existieren durchaus, etwa in beider Zusammenarbeit mit Charles Mingus oder Chico Hamilton. Doch während sich Collette seine unstrittige Reputation mit feinster dynamischer Differenzierung und delikater Tongebung erwarb, entzweire Eric Dolphy zu Lebzeiten regelmäßig die Meinungen mit seiner hinreißenden Kombination aus grandiosen Höhenflügen und bodenlosen Abstürzen, aus bezauberndem Anmut und wilder Rauhheit, aus unwiderstehlichem Drive und größtmöglicher Zurückhaltung.  Wer sich unmittelbar daran mißt, besittz nicht den Hauch einer Chance, den Vergleichen mit dem in jeder Viertelnote omnipräsenten Phantom stanzuhalten.  Joe Rosenbergs Bemühungen, den Verdacht der Kopie zu zerstreuen, sind allesamt löbilch: etwa, daß von sechs Titeln nur einer aus Dolphys Songbook stammt (“Booker’s Waltz”), oder daß er zum Alto des Stargastes noch Rob Sudduth am Tenor sowie sein eigenes Soprano gesellt und so quasi die Harmonieführung eines Piano suggeriert.  Die Live-Aufnahmen vom 24. und 25. März 1995 aus San Francisco und Berkeley wären ohne die erdrückende Bürde des Dolphy-Etiketts eine durchaus interessante Post-bop-Platte.  So dominiert das schale Gefühl eines gescheiterten Imitas, bei dem Buddy Collettes wunderbares Flötenspiel die einzige Ausnahme der ernütchternden Regel darstellt.  Ein mahnendes Beispiel, was passieren kann, wenn man versucht, die Geister um jeden Preis herauszufordern.

A bold and risky experiment of the trio “Affinity” around the soprano saxophonist Joe Rosenberg, to bring forward the restless, all inclusive search for their own musical identity with a homage to maybe their greatest idols.  Adventurous would be as well a good adjective, probably dangerous would fit even better.  Thus the intensive work with the two godfathers of the “New Thing”, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, as well as the effort to replicate as close as possible to their incomparable sounds involves nearly as many risky moments, like walking on a tightrope over a winding canyon.  At first, when Joe Rosenberg ensures the services of the highly experienced comrades of the legends, it looks like a wise move as in a chess game, to put them in the role as a catalyst.  Dewey Redman, for example fiddled around with Ornette Coleman from 1968 for 6 years in abandoned factory spaces in New York on the formation of the synonym “Harmolodic” which is currently nearly promoted as a trend.  After the end of liaising with Don Cherry, Redman came directly at the right time, to give the inventor of sounds a creative follower and congenial partner. Besides Cherry, the tenor saxophonist with the vocal phrasing and bluesy warmth has absorbed most consequentially Coleman’s lead motive forming a melody every time from a spontaneous idea.  As a result, the knotty 65-yr old has from the beginning already avoided any intention of an imitation.  His self-willing interpretation of classic pieces of the old friend like “Blues Connotation”, “Peace”, “Face Of The Bass”, “Beauty Is A Rare Thing” and “Little Symphony” displaying the power, rich in ideas, interesting rhythms, often swinging moves and a lot of other surprising twists. The other guys from Affinity (besides Rosenberg, Michael Silverman, bass, and Bobby Lurie, drums) also grasp quickly without given textures, strict regulations and forms, nor preformatted rules drifting into a colorful spiral of fantasy, the specific crux of Harmolodic. In addition, because of the sovereign performance by Dewey Redman, the live recording in San Francisco on 6 May 95 evolved, resulting in the very rare tribute which deserves the comment “well done”.

On the other hand, in contrast to Buddy Collette, the leading figure for Rosenberg’s Dolphy-project.  Ever since the multi-instrumentalist was counted as one of the leading representatives of the West Coast scene.  There are existing parallels in both works together with Charles Mingus and Chico Hamilton.  But while Collette acquired his undoubted reputation with the finest dynamic differences and delicate intonation, Eric Dolphy regularly divided the opinions by his amazing combination of grandiose high pitches and groundless troughs, magical beauty and wild roughness, from irresistible drive and the greatest possible holding back.  Whoever wants to measure himself with this cannot have the slimmest chance to withstand the comparison with whom in each quarter note the ever present phantom.  Joe Rosenberg’s efforts to destroy the perception of an imitation are all worth mentioning, for example, out of six titles only one is from Dolphy’s Songbook (“Booker’s Waltz”), or that he adds together to the alto of the guest star, both Rob Sudduth on tenor as well as his own soprano and this creates the impression of the lead harmony of a piano.  The live recordings at San Francisco and Berkeley on 24 Mar 95 would be an interesting Bebop record without the pressured burden of the Dolphy etiquette.  So dominates the bland feeling of a failed imitation where in Buddy Collette’s wonderful flute play is the only exception of this rule.  Another example of a consequence in trying to challenge the ghost at a price.

ALL-MUSIC GUIDE • Michael G. Nastos

Culled from separate live concert performances at New Langton Arts in San Francisco, CA and the Berkeley Store Gallery in Berkeley, Buddy Collette(alto sax/flute) and bandleader Joe Rosenberg (soprano sax) join tenor saxophonist Rob Sudduth to create a formidable front line in the ensemble dubbed Affinity.  Bassist Michael Silverman and drummer Bobby Lurie support the sax trio rhythmically as they weave their Dolphy-esque patterns in and out of tonal melody and the pungent harmonic references Dolphy invented as his signature sound.  All six selections are associated either directly to Dolphy's repertoire/book or with musicians who employed him.  The band starts with the Booker Little-penned bop improv "Bee Vamp," with its stinging staccato melody and the saxes of Collette and Rosenberg evoking the singular sourdough audio images of Dolphy as they duel away after their solos, drums, and bass.  The lilting, progressive "Booker's Waltz" has one of the members, unidentified but presumably Sudduth, playing bass clarinet alongside alto and soprano, with another fine drum solo. Ruminant flute from Collette, who taught Dolphy many tricks of the trade, crops up over the base saxes on Jaki Byard's "Ode to Charlie Parker," while that same format informs the classic melody of Mal Waldron's eminent swinger "Fire Waltz." The zinger of the set is a dour, easy-paced ballad associated with Max Roach, titled "Mendacity." On this track, the saxes take turns soloing while the others back them with support lines that shirk no harmonic overtones a la Dolphy, and Silverman takes a hefty bass solo. The finale of this 55-minute set is the Charles Mingus paen "So Long, Eric," a relatively fun and funny tune with more interactive collective participation before churning solos, another literate solo from Silverman, and all saxes trading fours in this tour de force finale. If you crave a new look at the music of Dolphy this recording does it faithfully.