Joe Rosenberg Quartet

QUICKSAND • Black Saint 120242

Joe Rosenberg (ss), Masako Hamamura (p), Mark Helias (b), Tom Rainey (ds)

DOWN BEAT • Bill Shoemaker – February 2008

The mature artist operates on the assumption that his equally mature audience will figure it out, and hang in there until they do.  From the moment Joe Rosenberg begins the unaccompanied sole that opens Quicksand - recorded at the Knitting Factory in 2002 - it is obvious that the soprano saxophonist has this maturity. Instead of flash or ostentatious quirkiness, Rosenberg lays down a nuance-filled exposition, one that seems initially tenuous but proves to be a firm foundation for a piece that spans several spaces and moods.

He has a piquant tone, sometimes to the point of being pinched, and his phrasing often plays down his chops, which, in full flight, can withstand comparisons to vintage Wayne Shorter and Joe Farrell.  Yet, throughout this stylistically diverse set, Rosenberg places the moment-to-moment development of the music first, frequently suspending a thread to react to the ongoing commentary of pianist Masako Hamamura, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Rainey, and reinforce the dialogue. That's another mark of the mature artist - active listening.

As a composer, however, Rosenberg is inconsistent in penning pieces that immediately stick.  For every piece like "Jean-Truc," a capering line that resolves with a burst of notes, or "Blood Count." a smart juxtaposition of long tones and serpentine phrases that makes an instant impression, there's one like the balladic "What It Is" or the ostinato-driven title piece that takes multiple plays to fully sink in.  To say, however, that Rosenberg's compositions are serviceable is not to say that they are mere templates, like a 12-bar blues; they trigger a sufficient number of incandescent moments. It may be clichéd, but it's true: Quicksand rewards the patient, mature listener

ALL ABOUT JAZZ ITALIA • Vincenzo Roggero – May 2007  ★★★1⁄2

Buttando un’ occhiata veloce alla discografia di Joe Rosenberg balzano all’occhio gli omaggi (ben quattro), apertamente dichiarati fin dai titoli, a Eric Dolphy ed Ornette Coleman. Se poi aggiungiamo che nelle note di copertina di Quicksand compare un giudizio assai lusinghiero da parte di Antony Braxton, il cerchio si chiude, e i riferimenti stilistici e culturali sembrerebbero chiari e definiti.

Benché nel CD questo background emerga piuttosto chiaramente, Rosenberg è bravo a depistare l’ascoltatore. A partire dallo strumento, il sax soprano, assai poco utilizzato dai musicisti appena citati. Per continuare con l’uso di una scrittura che, utilizzando scarti e libertà interpretative all’interno di una configurazione apparentemente rigida e determinata, sottopone i brani a minime ma continue trasformazioni, polarizzandone i centri focali.

“A la carte“, per esempio, possiede la geometrica costruzione dei brani di Braxton e l’altrettanto originale commistione di atmosfere cameristiche e libera improvvisazione. Il soprano di Rosenberg è austero come un oboe, il contrabbasso archettato di Helias suona come un violoncello e la batteria di Rainey lavora quasi esclusivamente sui tamburi, poi quasi dal nulla arriva un’onda carica di swing che trasporta la composizione in un’altra dimensione.

La title-track ha una valenza ritmica importante, con pedali di basso e pianoforte che scatenano la fantasia percussiva di Rainey, ma una linea melodica dall’andamento carsico addolcisce il climax dell’esecuzione. In “Jean-Truc“ il soprano improvvisa con linee zigzaganti e oblique alla Dolphy, ma prende il testimone da un assolo di pianoforte rapsodico e visionario ad opera del giapponese Hamamura.

Disco di non facile approccio, Quicksand ribadisce il talento di compositore di Joe Rosenberg e lo propone come uno degli interpreti più originali del sax soprano. Visita il sito di Joe Rosenberg Quartet.

Throwing a fast glance at the discography of Joe Rosenberg, with white markings to the eye, openly it declares to you from the titles homages to Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman.  If we then add from the cover notes of Quicksand a flattering judgment from part of Anthony Braxton, it appears much that the circle is closed, and the stylistic and cultural references would seem clear and defined.

Although in the CD this background emerges rather clearly, Rosenberg is brave to “depistare” the listener. To go with the instrument, sax soprano, little used much by the musicians as mentioned above.  In order to continue with the use of one writing that, using refuse and interpretative freedoms to the inside of one configuration apparently rigid and determined, it subjects the brain to minimal but continuous transformations, polarizing some of the focal centers.

"A La Carte", as an example, possesses the geometric construction of the brain of Braxton and equally it originates them “commistione of cameristiche” atmospheres and free improvisation. The soprano of Rosenberg is as austere as an Oboe, the contra bass archo of Helias sounds like a violoncello and a battery of Rainey work nearly exclusively on the drums.  I then nearly from the one null, a wave loaded with swing arrives that transports the composition in another dimension.

The title-track has an important rhythmic valence, with bottom pedals and pianoforte that trigger the percussive fantasy of Rainey, but a melodic line from the “carsico” course sweetens the climax of the execution. In "Jean-Truc" the soprano unexpectedly comes in with line zigzaging and oblique to Dolphy, but take the witness from a solo of pianoforte rapid and visionary work of the Japanese pianist Masako Hamamura.  This disc not easy approach, Quicksand reasserts the talent of composer of Joe Rosenberg and it proposes him as one of the more original interpreters of the sax soprano.




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This live recording starts with a very nice clean-sounding solo improvization by Joe Rosenberg on sax, then Masako Hamamura joins on piano, adding a few soft chords, then Mark Helias' bass takes over, gently plucking the strings, moving the track a step further as an intro for a fragile unisono line between sax and piano, elegantly accentuated by Tom Rainey on drums. The rhythm section proves to have the absolutely necessary sensitivity to accompany Rosenberg in his adventurous take on music, which is calm, accurate, slowly building on the structures he creates. This does not mean that the music is not intense, it certainly is, but it's restrained at the same time. Violent emotional outbursts or expressions of extreme feelings are alien to this music: it flows like a river, finding its own melodic course through the creative interplay of the moment. It is the free variant of post-bop. Helias and Rainey of course need no introduction, and whatever these two musicians do lately apparently turns into a success. Hamamura is a discovery for me: her piano-playing is excellent. The real star is Rosenberg himself, for the quality and the sensitivity of his playing, and for his compositions. Exciting music, and fun too. And the Knitting Factory audience seemed to agree!

CADENCE • Jim Santella - July 2007

The Joe Rosenberg quartet interprets this program of the leader’s compositions with a serious Classical quality that’s engulfed in pensive improvisation.  Double bass, piano, and drums surround the soprano saxophonist with eddies that wash back and forth in a coherent performance.  Careful never to overpower during this concert performance at New York’s Knitting Factory, Rosenberg meshes with the output of his band mates seamlessly at a fair distance.  The tone of his instrument, one of the better ones in modern Jazz, settles in comfortably with that of the others.  The saxophonist communicates readily with sober thoughts that deploy the quartet into mild storms of creativity.

Space remains important to Rosenberg’s work.  Many artists today simply ignore space in favor of a rhythmic groove that invites predictability and allows for a sense of swing.  Instead, this leader insures that spontaneity may exist around every corner.  The artists throw one surprise after another into their work.  Mark Helias, for example, adds double stops and moto prepetuo vamps, while drummer Tom Rainey finds variety in the natural textures of his kit.  Pianist Masako Hamamura enjoys a percussive approach that contrasts with the leader’s velvet-smooth saxophone façade.  Tempo plays an important role as the session moves quietly between slow & solemn and fast & furious.

Rosenberg lights up when the tempo turns rapid.  He finds inspiration in the flurries of notes and drives harder until he feels a time for letup.  Register changes offer no problem whatsoever, as he moves fluidly up and down the soprano saxophone’s range.  Slower ballad segments, which take advantage of space, demonstrate Rosenberg’s dry outlook and passionate cries.  His session maintains a sensitive balance between up-tempo adventure and quirky melodies.  The album’s title track offers an aura of Tango with an undercurrent of percussive ripples, which implies, perhaps, that Quicksand captures your mind while your body struggles below the surface.  Rosenberg’s soprano saxophone explains each adventurous tale with an exotic texture that allures.