Joe Rosenberg’s Affinity


Joe Rosenberg (ss), Rob Sudduth (ts), Richard Saunders (b), Bobby Lurie (dm)

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

Heart-on-sleeve stuff from soprano specialist Rosenberg’s dedicated modernists.  Originally a limited-edition release, the 1993 record establishes the group sound quite emphatically.  There is a burning version of Lee Morgan’s ‘Afrique’, a fine version of Ornette’s rarely covered ‘Little Symphony’ and an unexpectedly mainstream turn for Ellis Marsalis’s ‘After’.  This, plus material by Dolphy (‘Miss Ann’) and Anthony Braxton, paves the way for future hommages.

TOWER RECORDS PULSE • Kevin Whitehead - June 1993

One hopeful sign of jazz's ideological wars are waning is the eponymous, self-produced CD by the quartet Affinity which plays tunes by hardboppers Ellis Marsalis and Art Blakey and outcats Eric Dolphy and Anthony Braxton (two by the latter, one a remarkably faithful reduction of his big-band march "Composition 58").  This two-sax two-rhythm quartet of unknown but good players ignores stylistic distinctions: Blakey's "Afrique" becomes a lattice of independent riffs, while the band joyfully swings Braxton's vamp-driven "40B" (which the composer dedicated to soul altoist and avant-garde hater Lou Donaldson).  The interplay and intonation are good; the rhythm section slips comfortably into and out of swingtime.  Any CD that goes from Cedar Walton's slick take on "Three Blind Mice" to Ornette Coleman's tumbling "Little Symphony" can't be bad.     

THE WIRE • Tony Herrington - July 1993

This has some of the atmosphere of Steve Lacy's early 60s recordings (The Straight Horn, particularly).  Two saxes, bass and drums, drawing long linear improvisations out of nine inspired choice covers (by Braxton, Ornette, Konitz, Dolphy, etc.)  Tenor Rob Sudduth's solos have an itchy schizophrenic quality - his tone and phrasing shift dramatically from track to track, taking on the character of the relevant feted composer (Ornette on "Little Symphony", Dolphy on "Miss Ann", Konitz, with soprano Joe Rosenberg in the Warne Marsh counterpoint role, on "Subconsciouslee").  A rather dry, internalized air of concentration informs on all the music, which will probably further hamper its already limited outreach.  A shame.  Its rewards are considerable.     

CADENCE • Jerome Wilson - December 1993

This is one of those recordings that shows how interrelated the jazz avant-garde and mainstream are.  Affinity plays music by composers ranging from Art Blakey and Cedar Walton to Eric Dolphy and Anthony Braxton with an ease that shows how close the different strains really are.  Saxophonists Joe Rosenberg and Rob Sudduth are a good tandem whether doing beautiful unison work on the Ellingtonian sonorities of Ellis Marsalis' "After" or weaving lines around each other on Blakey's "Afrique".  They do a variety of styles well like hard bop, Tristanoish linear improvisation, and the swirling, emotional world of Ornette Coleman.  The sax players are constantly slippery and melodic whether solo or together and the rhythm section of Richard Saunders and Bobby Lurie are excellent at keeping the beat going no matter what the saxes are doing.  The biggest shock is Braxton's "Composition 58" which turns out to be a well know march from his old Creative Orchestra Music 1976 LP.  This would seem to be a big job for a quartet to handle but they do it, Rosenberg handling the melody and Sudduth tooting arpeggios above him.  This group has a very entertaining and open minded approach to a wide spectrum of jazz.     

FREEWAY - September 1994

Affinity is a quartet featuring saxophonists Joe Rosenberg and Rob Sudduth, with the ever-steady Richard Saunders on bass and Bobby Lurie playing a beautifully tuned kit.  For inspiration, Affinity looks back to the jazz modernists (Monk, Konitz, Dolphy, Ornette), and keeps Braxton's compositions 40B and 58 on the same sort of middle ground, never going all the way out, but ceaselessly poking and prodding the music, true to the spirit of its originators.  Both reedsmen are precise and adventurous, though they seem most at home on their strong interpretations of bop-based charts.

IMPROJAZZ • Philippe Alen

Esquisser une voie possible pour se soustraire a‘ l‘alternative rele‘ve de la tradition -des traditions- et un de’placement des codes, tel est l‘enjeu commun de ces deux formations sans pour autant user des memes repe‘res, ni d‘ailleurs de moyens comparables.  Pareille tache n‘est pas neuve, mais constitue peut-etre le fait marquant de ces quinze dernie‘res anne‘es pour peu qu‘on se de‘tourne de l‘’ecume de jour, et leur confe‘re davantage de cohe‘rence que n‘en laisserait croire un regard superficiel.  Quelques e‘claireurs jalonnent la piste: Dick Sutton et Steve Lacy (de‘s 54), Lester Bowie, Dave Holland (suivi de Steve Coleman) a‘ partir de 80, en excluant le simple e‘clectisme de Wynton Marsalis et consorts.  Affinity est emmene‘ par Joe Rosenberg, soprano a‘ de’coucrir, qui, e’le‘ve du le’gendaire Joe Viola, puis de Buddy Collette et John Carter, a e’coute’ Lacy comme tous ses pairs et posse‘de une sonorite’ soyeuse et un jeu ae’rien d‘une enviable surete’ de gout, et dont le mariage avec le te’nor fruite’ de Sudduth est un bonheur.  La succession de ces «classics» (Lee Morgan, Ellis Marsalis, Curtis Fuller, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Anthony Braxton), fait saillir la continuite’ de ces langages, que d‘aucuns voudraient croire exclusifs, d‘es lors qu‘un angle interpre’tatif ne fige pas ces musiques en leurs codes respectifs.  Il y a l‘a comme une voie me’diane - ey certes pas moyenne- qui faufile l‘histoire du jazz moderne avec un allant qui ravigore, un singulier « classicisme dynamique ».

Outlining a possible track to elude the "avant - garde or revival" alternative, by taking over the tradition and transferring the codes:  Here is the common bet of theses two bands.  The markers and means in use are however, different.  Such a mission is not new but, constitutes what could be the prominent happening of the last fifteen years; provided that you focus your mind more carefully on them.  Some scouts have blazed the trail, Dick Sutton and Steve Lacy (1954), Lester Bowie, Dave Holland (then Steve Coleman) from 1984, exclusive of the abstract and conservative eclecticism of Wynton Marsalis and consorts.  Affinity is lead by Joe Rosenberg, soprano saxophonist to be discovered, a student of the legendary Joe Viola, then Buddy Collette and John Carter.  He has, like all his peers listened to Lacy, and possesses a silky sound.  His association with the mellow tenor saxophone of Rob Sudduth is a real delight.  The succession of the classics of Lee Morgan, Ellis Marsalis, Curtis Fuller, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and Anthony Braxton enhance the continuity of those languages, that one would like to be exclusive, seeing that an interpretive point of view doesn't put those musics into their respective codes.  It's like a median - not medium - path which boosts the history of modern jazz with an energy which invigorates a special « dynamic classicism ».

ALL-MUSIC GUIDE • Scott Yanow - January 1998  

Affinity consists of Joe Rosenberg on soprano, Rob Sudduth on tenor, bassist Richard Saunders and drummer Bobby Lurie.  They have a very inclusive approach to picking out "Nine Modern Jazz Classics", so this inventive CD ranges in repertoire from Lee Morgan and Thelonious Monk to Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton (two compositions including his infamous march).  A playful interplay is a bit reminiscent of Steve Lacy's early recordings and the versatile solos fit the mood of each piece.