Joe Rosenberg Quartet


Joe Rosenberg (ss), Jean-Luc Guionnet (as), Mark Helias (b), Edward Perraud (dr)


BEYOND COLTRANE • Fred Barrett - July 2002

… then you can move on to the extraordinary Joe Rosenberg Quartet.  From the first phrase of the first track, “Jean-Truc”, I was pulled into the quartet’s sound and especially Rosenberg’s composing muscle.  He knows how to swing and he knows how to write complex and intertwining passages that leave me breathless.  This is modern jazz at it’s finest, and much of the quality is owed to bassist Mark Helias, who not only forces the dynamic level down to some of the most quietest passages put on disc, a true test of CIMP recording quality, but also some of the most melodic and symphonically harmonious passages.  So, Rosenberg’s compositions draw me into the fold, and Helias’ bass playing makes me weep with joy.  Who could ask for anything more in a disc?  The two other players in this quartet, alto sax Jean-Luc Guionnet and drummer Edward Perraud, got together for a duet disc right after this session.  In fact, Heur is the next catalog number in the series, so let’s listen to that, shall we?

ALL-MUSIC GUIDE • Steven Loewry - July 2002

Joe Rosenberg is a saxophonist whose name should be better known than it is.  He has recorded some consistently fine albums and yet, as with so many artists, he barely registers on the radar screen.  This one is largely abstract and esoteric, the result, in part, of the company he keeps.  The even less-known, but equally creative saxophonist, Jean-Luc Guionnet, is the other horn, and the latter’s obscure, individualistic approach to improvisation has a powerful effect on the whole.  Rounding out the quartet is the stellar bassist Mark Helias, whose presence energizes any recording, and the very sensitive drummer, Edward Perraud, who is a perfect compliment to the kind of extremes to which this group is capable of reaching.  Unlike much of so-called avant garde jazz, these fellows are less concerned with energy than with pure sound:  the little noises, and the reflection of one sax off another; but Rosenberg and Guionnet are capable of building interlocking lines that, for example on the lengthy “a La Carte,” weave in-and-out in a style reminiscent of Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh.  For all the moments of excellence, though, there are others when the music loses focus and drifts, when the limited tonal palette is difficult to overcome, when, as on “On Three” the results appear slightly contrived, and boredom ensues.  These moments are rare, though, and both saxes usually project unique voices that beg for attention.


Harter Impro-Stoff von Sopranosaxophonist Rosenberg (*1955, Sharon) zusammen mit Mark Helias (*1950, New Jersey) am Bass und 50% europäischer Beteiligung in Gestalt von Jean-Luc Guionnet am Altosax & Drummer Edward Perraud (-> CIMP #259), aber schon mit kompositorischen Vorgaben des Leaders und von Guionnet, die sich bereits aus der Joe Rosenberg Group (Cadence, CJR 1109) kannten. Die hellen und nüchternen Schnörkel von Soprano & Altosax stöchern und winden sich durch touristisch unerschlossene Zonen (“Nouvelle Afrique”), das Quartett zeigt die Praxis von Difference, was sich gut verflogen lässt an ‘Jean-Truc’, das in zwei Takes als Auftakt und Finale enthalten ist.  Schon ein Titel wie Guionnets ‘Version Two’ ist bezeichnend – er suggeriert ein Reihe von möglichen Varianten.

Hard Improv material of soprano saxophonist Rosenberg (*1955, Sharon) together with Marks of Helias (*1950, New Jersey) at the bass and 50% of European participation in shape of Jean-Luc Guionnet on the Altosax and Drummer Edward Perraud (CIMP #259), but already with composing specifications from the leaders and from Guionnet, who already knew each other from the Joe Rosenberg Group (Cadence, CJR 1109). The bright and sober sounds of soprano and alto sax stöchern and wind themselves by touring unexplored zones (“Nouvelle Afrique”), the quartet indicates the practice of difference, which leaves itself well passed at “Jean-Truc”, in two the takes as prelude and finale are contained.  A title such as Guionnet’s “Version Two” in defining he already suggests a series of possible versions.

EDUCATION DIGEST • Tom Bowden - October 2002

Do What We Must Do is a first rate recording by Joe Rosenberg’s Quartet, both in the sense of the band’s performance and in the recording itself.  Recorded direct to two tracks, with no overdubs, editing, compression, or other studio magic, Do What We Must Do represents the band much as one might hear them live, at the top of their game. Featuring Rosenberg on soprano saxophone, Jean-Luc Guionnet on alto-sax, Mark Helias on bass, and Edward Perraud on drums, the quartet plays tight, their exchanges, improvisations, technique, and musicality spot-on.

Beginning with a counterpoint melody between the two saxes on “Jean-Truc,”  one of the most pleasing qualities of the band is their consistent understatement; no flashy technique, “clever”  moves, or musical gestures that in a way hinder or jar the flow of the music.  Rosenberg who composed four of the album’s six numbers, shows a knack both for writing songs with clear structure (such as “Jean-Truc”) as well as songs that are much looser in form.  The quartet, in fact, weave so adeptly from structured to improvised sections within songs that I often found it difficult to tell where one part ended and the other began, so seamless are their performances, so well do they pick up on what each other is doing, repeating and modifying each other’s rhythms and melodies.

Helias introduces the album’s longest number, “a la Carte,” with a prolonged solo, before being joined by the other three.  As the title suggests, the piece conveys a sense of separateness among the players, each bringing something distinctive to the composition, yet those separate parts successfully unite as a cohesive whole.  “On Three” features long held out tones, disrupted intermittently by a squawk or holler from Rosenberg’s or Guionnet’s sax.  It makes me think of the anticipation of “Everybody! On three—one… two…” and then the horns blast on “three!” as everybody pulls together.  In other words, the song is an exercise in tension and release.

“Calx” one of Guionnet’s two compositions, a eccentric sort of march, emerges from a miasma of chaotic free jazz, slowly coalescing its way to something more definitely formed and structured, as all the musicians come together when the song rises towards the melodic motif it’s been working toward.  “Version Two,” Guionnet’s other composition here, is a meditative work with some beautiful playing by all.  The album ends with a faster-tempo reprise of “Jean-Truc,” giving the entire session a nicely book-ended feel.  Highly recommended.

CADENCE • Jason Bivins - March 2003

Tension.  So much good improv thrives on it, and it’s all over this excellent session.  There is tension between Rosenberg’s limber, lyric soprano and Guionnet’s gruffer alto; between the various sections of these performances, both composed and spontaneously created; and between the songs themselves as they range across this disc, which feels very much like a suite.

Helias will be by far be the most recognized name to most readers, though some may be familiar with Rosenberg’s earlier recordings on Cadence Jazz Records and Music & Arts (the latter with the group Affinity).  As a player, Rosenberg likes patterns and structures – not in the Lacy or Evan Parker sense (just to name two easy, and largely off-the -mark references), but for the way they enable him to push the group dynamics.  These patterns are tightest on the two versions of “Jean-Truc”, where the serpentine theme (with its odd, sputtering anti-climax) gooses the players (especially the wondrous drummer Perraud).

“Nouvelle Afrique”, “a la Carte”, and “On Three” are all episodic improvisations where lyric events emerge subtly (this is key) from the general openness.  On “Nouvelle Afrique” patterns are audible, almost as if the band is playing a loosened-up version of “Jean-Truc”.  “A La Carte” features plenty of superb bass work from the great Helias and lots of duos (including a good one from the horns) amid dark rubato passages that recall Julius Hemphill’s “Reflections” (indeed, much of the disc recalls some of Marty Ehrlich’s more Hemphill-influenced dates).  “On Three” is more caustic in its timbers and sonorities but even sparser, notes and accents like raindrops on the still surface of a pond.  “Calx” is quite rhythmic, building as it goes along – there is great bass and drum work towards the end, where the theme truly emerges, the horns playing tag as in “Jean-Truc”.)  “Version Two” is more loping, almost ponderous, for all the world like a fractured Blues.

In the liners, Rosenberg quotes Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski as saying the artists’ mission is “to make this ideal world available for those who are not accessed to it.”  On this rich recording, Rosenberg and colleagues present their angle of vision onto this world.  Warmly recommended.

ALL ABOUT JAZZ • Vittorio Lo Conte - August 2006 ★★★★

Ad un avvio molto fluido e regolare del brano d'apertura dove i sax di Joe Rosenberg e del poliedrico artista Jean-Luc Guionnet corrono e scivolano con suoni legati sopra un tappeto ritmico levigato, ma denso, seguono immediatamente altri componimenti caratterizzati da voci frantumate con frasi che si compenetrano, voci che peregrinano lungo percorsi casuali sorretti su una pulsazione a volte silente a volte ruvida e libera, in altri momenti appesa alla realtà dal solo battere del charleston di Edward Perraud che mostra di muoversi a suo agio come si trovasse in una delle sue belle immagini colorate, quanto astratte.

A momenti più andanti si alternano altri più riflessivi e percussivi, un po' à la Arte Ensemble come in On Three. A volte il passaggio da un frame di questo tipo ad un altro più denso e pulsato avviene all'interno di uno stesso brano come nell'ottimo Calx.

I due sassofoni sembrano esplorare l'anima africana adattandosi e adeguandosi ad ogni irregolarità seguendo vie tortuose che a volte si aprono in grandi spazi dove i suoni sembrano quasi perdersi. La strada non è predeterminata dai musicisti che in un'esplorazione non certo di conquista procedono in simbiosi, con una discrezione e una delicatezza che solo l'approccio dell'engineering CIMP riesce a rendere così bene offrendo come suo solito tutta la dinamica naturale degli strumenti. E ce n'è veramente bisogno nella sesta traccia Version Two quando Mark Helias inizia da solo praticamente inudibile, magistrale.

Certo si avverte molto la complicità dei due fiati, ciononostante l'equilibrio con gli altri due musicisti è veramente notevole e anche quando ci sono dei soli si continua ad avvertire la presenza di tutti i membri del gruppo.

Nell'ascoltatore guidato in primis dalla voce malinconica del sax soprano prede corpo un senso di pace che via via progredisce rendendo l'ascolto sempre migliore fino a farci condividere l'atmosfera misteriosa creata dal quartetto.

To a start very fluid and to regulate of the brand of opening where the sax of Joe Rosenberg and the versatile artist Jean-Luc Guionnet they run and they slip with sounds legacies over a legato rhythmic carpet, but dense, they follow other componimenti immediately characterizes to you from voices crushed with phrases that compenetrano, voices that peregrinano along accidental distances supported on one rough and free pulsation to times silent to times, in other moments hung to the truth the solo to strike of charleston of Edward Perraud that extension to move to its comfort as it was found in one of its beautiful colored images, how many separating.

At moments more andante more alternate other reflected to you and percussive ones, like the Ensemble Art like in On Three. To times the passage from a frame of this the other densest one and pulsing type to happens to the inside of one same brand like in the optimal Calx. The two saxophones they seem to explore the spirit African adapting themselves and adapting to every irregularity following tortuose ways that to times are opened in great spaces where the sounds nearly seem to get lost. The road is not predetermined from the musicians that in a not sure exploration of conquest they proceed in simbiosi, with a discretion and a delicacy that only the approach of engineering the CIMP succeeds to render therefore offering like its usual well all natural dynamics of the instruments. And it is truly need in the sixth trace Version Two when Mark Helias begins alone practically inaudible, skillful.

Sure the complicity of the two breaths is perceived very, ciononostante the equilibrium with the others two musicians is truly remarkable and also when there are of the single ones it continues to perceive the presence of all the members of the group. In the listener guided in primis from the melancholic voice of sax soprano prede the body a peace sense that gradually it progresses rendering I listen always better until makes us to share the created mysterious atmosphere from the quartet.