Signal to Noise

TAG • Quark Records/1hr Music 010

Joe Rosenberg (ss & bc), Masako Hamamura (p), Peter Scherr (b), Edward Perraud (ds)

CADENCE • Phillip McNally- April 2010

Signal to Noise is what Joe Rosenberg calls his quartet when they are playing only his own compositions. When the same line-up of clarinetist Rosenberg with pianist Masako Hamamura, bassist Peter Scherr, and drummer Edward Perraud deconstruct Jazz standards on the bandstand, he calls the group JRQ. And while the standards they tear apart may hand you a familiar lifeline into the music, Signal to Noise is a 4tet worth hearing. Rosenberg was a student of the late John Carter, and while his compositions don’t have the grand conceptual structures of Carter’s Roots and Folklore Suites, they do share the intense and complex musicality of Carter, and this is no minor compliment.

Signal to Noise is a strong 4tet here, very tight and adept at making the quick turns and switches Rosenberg’s music requires. Hamamura brings a lyrical sense of harmony to the group, grounding even the music’s minor seconds in the overall tonality. At their best, Rosenberg’s compositions have their roots in Monk, though they show the influence of everywhere the music has gone since then. His clarinet sound is a delight too, grounded in the tradition but headed into abstraction. He really should be better known. This is a good place to start, if you don’t know his work already.

ALL ABOUT JAZZ ITALIA • Vincenzo Roggero – October 2009  ★★★

Assenza quasi totale di note di copertina - per scoprire musicisti e relativi strumenti bisogna porre attenzione alla lucida superficie del CD - una foto iperrealista che unisce la prima e la quarta di copertina, all'interno una sorta di geroglifico che partendo dal termine tag si apre a raggiera secondo una logica apparentemente derivativa e associative.

Si presenta così Tag, album di debutto dei Signal to Noise, quartetto poliglotta di improvvisatori capitanato dal sassofonista e clarinettista statunitense Joe Rosenberg, autore di tutte le composizioni. Quattro musicisti abituati ad operare nella galassia delle musiche di ricerca, che non accettano compromessi e condizionamenti di sorta, che si muovono con disinvoltura su qualsiasi terreno.

La musica di Tag spiazza continuamente perché è libera da canovacci, da tracce più o meno marcate, da legami consequenziali, da schemi preordinati. Si muove, piuttosto, nella zona franca abitata dal silenzio, dalle dissonanze, dalle invenzioni timbriche che si sviluppano quasi per osmosi, da riverberi e da ombre cinesi sonore, da lame acustiche che tagliano l'aria come una tela di Fontana.

Tag è disco complesso, a tratti eccessivamente imploso su se stesso, avvolto da un palpabile alone di intellettualismo, con sequenze di un certo interesse, ma nel quale i musicisti non riescono a convogliare la propria urgenza espressiva in un adeguato canale comunicativo.

With almost a total absence of liner notes - and in order to discover the musicians and their instruments, one must pay close attention to the polished cover of the CD - an incredibley realistic picture that unites the front and back cover, and inside the CD a kind of hieroglyphic, that begins from the ending "tag," and opens to the second "raggiera" giving a logic that is apparently entwined and connected.

This is how Tag introduces the debut album “Signal to Noise,” this multilingual quartet of improvisers, headed by an American saxophonist and clarinetist Joe Rosenberg, author of all the compositions.   Four musicians use to performing in the universe of music, not accepting any compromises nor limitations of any kind, but moving easily on any landscape.

The music of Tag always provides new openings because it is free from more or less predictable fixed patterns like from those that one may find from tea towels.  Rather, the music of Tag moves, in the frank and honest zone where one may find silence, where one may find dissonance, where one may find tonal inventions that are developed almost by osmosis, where one may find reflections and Chinese shadow puppets of noise, and where one may find noise from blades that cut the air like a painting by Fontana.

Overall Tag is complex, and at times excessively imploding on itself, surrounding itself by a palpable aura of intellectualism, with sequences of some interest, but in which the musicians do not successfully convey the sense of urgency expressed in an appropriate communication channel. “

TIME OUT HONG KONG • Bong Miquiabas – September 2009

Peter Scherr makes beautifully unconventional music, and Tag, his latest project with jazz ensemble Signal to Noise, reminds us why he’s one of our favorite artists in town.  Laying down slender twisting grooves, the seven-track release makes even the sour notes sound good.  Built on counterintuitive chord progressions, Scherr on bass, Joe Rosenberg on soprano sax, Masako Hamamura on piano, and Edward Perraud on drums play their way to satisfying resolutions.

On the opening track That Eleven Thing, for instance, Rosenberg pips a melodic fragment that somersaults with rising and fading energy and then suddenly falls silent for minutes before returning at the end.  On Tag – a piece which only two musicians can perform simultaneously and others can force their way in – the concoction is playful, conversational, fickle, and compelling.

Rosenberg sails high but never shrills.  Hamamura captivates with slyly elastic entrances.  Perraud asserts on drums in well-judged proportion.  And the ever-disciplined Scherr makes even a gentle thrum feel wise.  The four each call different countries home, so live gigs are rare.  Next best thing is to hunt down Tag at  HYPERLINK ""  Its one of the best locally produced albums we’ve heard in ages.

DIAPAZON • Andrzej E. Grabowski – August 2009

Formacja Joe Rosenberga konsekwentnie realizuje przesłanie twórczego rozwijania muzyki spod znaku Ornette'a Colemana. Kwartet ujmuje bezkomprowisowym kontynuowaniem idei mistrza. Choć przecież muzycy mają oczywiście też własne zdanie, doświadczenia i świadomość dokonań innych kolegów. Sopran i klarnet basowy lidera wzbogacone pianistyką japońskiej pianistki Hamamury robią wrażenie. A i sekcja, palce lizać. Bardzo dobra płyta, którą polecam wszystkim.

Formation realizes the message of deployment of creative music from under the sign of Ornette, consequently the Joe Rosenberg Quartet. This group captivates, champions and continues the idea bezkomprowisowym. Though certainly musicians and composers have their personal opinions, experiences and consciousness of effecting of other colleague. The leader’s soprano and bass clarinet playing is enriched by the Japanese pianist Masako Hamamura and makes a strong impression. And section, fingers, lizać., the disc is very good, which I advice to all.

IRAC JOURNAL • Stuart Kremsky – August 2009

I’m hooked from the start of Tag, new from the international quartet Signal To Noise. Soprano saxophonist Joe Rosenberg wrote all the tunes for the album and That 11 Thing kicks off the hour with a jittery riff, dramatic rhythm playing that holds back as much as it lets loose, and a dynamic group sound that’s locked together from the first beat. Focused and inspired solos by Rosenberg and pianist Masako Hamamura complete the picture. Three Farmers employs a similarly rigorous approach to a slower, more spacious theme, one explored at length by the entire ensemble. A somber-sounding Rosenberg is shadowed by Hamamura’s inquisitive chords and Peter Scherr’s bass, with drummer Edward Perraud supplying commentary with brushes. The cover art makes a design of all the meanings of Tag, and I guess it’s up to the listener to think about how that might relate to the title track and its close cousin Tag Too. The music moves in fits and starts, as each player tags another in a deliberate and slow-moving game of sound. Extremes of velocity and volume of sound are important tools in Rosenberg’s compositions. Given the fairly simple structures he devises, he relies more than usual on his bandmates’ instincts and sensibilities to bring them to life. Luckily, with this unit he’s found a superb vehicle for his musical sensibility. Warmly recommended, Tag is one of those albums that keeps getting better each time around.

JAZZ’N’MORE • Jürg Solothirnmann – July/August 2009

Immer mehr, so scheint, finden die interesanten Kreationen nur noch auf obskuren kleinen Labels PLatz.  Aus Hongkong erhielt ich kürzlich Post. “Mit meiner gegenwärtigen Band “Signal To Noise” – mit der japanischen Pianisten Masako Hamamura, den Bassisten Peter Scherr und dem Franzosen Edward Perraud, Schlagzeug, gehe ich auf Tournee in Frankreich, unter anderem mit ein Konzert im Maison de la Radio France”, schrieb mir ein amerikanischer Sopranosaxofonist namens Joe Rosenberg.  “Wir präsentieren auch unsere neue CD ‘Tag’, ein Joint Venture von ‘1hr Music’ mit ‘Quarck Records’.  Dies ist meine 11. CD als Leaders Von Jürg Solothirnmann

Joe Rosenberg – nie gehört, aber die Musik der CD liess aufhorchen und machte mich neugierig. Rosenberg schickte mehr Informationen, und ich machte mich auf die  - mühsame Suche im Internet. Hier ein paar Fakten. 1955 in Boston geboren und aufgewachsen, war Rosenberg offenbar ein Spätstarer. Er studierte beim klassischen Saxofonisten Joseph Viola und dann in Los Angeles, in die Szene integriert, bei Buddy Collette und beim Klarinetteisten John Carter. Sein Hauptinstrument – neben Klainetten – wurde das Sopransaxofon. Rosenberg arbeitete sich in den frühen 90er-Jahren frühe Jazz Avantgarde mit vier CDs für “Music & Arts” – zusammen mit Dewey Redman (Themen von Ornette Coleman) und Buddy Collette (Themen von Mingus über Dolphy bis Braxton). Schon da kündete sich an, dass der initiative Rosenberg als charaktervoller Sopranosaxofonist mit eigenen Ideen die Grenzen erweitern wird. Dolphy, Coleman, Anthony Braxton und moderne Komponisten inspirieren ihn als Imporvisator  und Komponist/Konzeptmacher, wie seine Website deutlich Ähnlichkeit mit Steve Lacy, ist aber weicher.

Rosenberg interessiert sich sehr für Ostasien. Er spielte und lebte längere Zeit in Bali und Japan und seit 1995 in Hongkong, von wo aus er in Macau, China und Japan mit anderen zugezogenen Jazzmusikern arbeitet, aber auch mit renommierten chinesischen Vertretern von Tanz und Theater. Doch es entstand auch ein starker Kontakt zu Eurpoa, weil seine musikalische Orientierung hier mehr Resonanz findet. Seine CDs erschienen teilweise bei “Black Saint” in Italien (2005 die Live-CD “Quicksand” mit Masako Hamamura, Mark Helias and Tom Rainey), und er spielte mit dem Lyoneser Saxofonisten Jean-Luc Guionnet und dem Schlagzeuger Edward Perraud (Daniel Erdmann/Das Kapital).

Nun hat er offenbar die richtige Formel gefunden. Das vormalige “Joe Rosenberg Quartet” heisst nun “Signal To Noise”, womit er den konstruktiven Beitrag des Teams hervorstreicht. Rosenberg bringt Themen ein, aber es werden auch taktische und formale Möglichkeiten diskutiert Die Kollektive thematische Entwicklung steht im Zentrum – geprägt von einem kompositorischen Flair. Die Jazz-Konventionen sind Alternativen, aber in den sieben originellen Stücken oder Konzepten gibt es kaum Standardsituationen, keinen Dienst nach Vorschrift.

Rosenberg zitiert Anthony Braxton: “Eine Musik, die über mir ist oder die ich ganz erklären kann, interessiert mich nicht. Ich bin interessiert, jene Komponenten zu kontrollieren kann – ohne der Musik im Weg zu stehen.” Form ist notwendig, aber sie ist nicht vorgegeben, sondern ein Prozess, der sich von Moment zu Moment ergibt. Rosenberg erscheint oft inspiriert von der Knappheit von Monk, Lacy und Mal Waldren, und Pausen spielen in seinem Konzept eine bedeutende Rolle.

“Tag” heisst laut Diktionär alles Mögliche: Kleber, Etikett, Kennschild, Kennsatz usw. Ebenso in alle Richtungen kann die gleichnamige Soundimporvisation gehen. “Three Framers” hat ein bedächtiges Unisono-Thema, das entfernt an Monks “Epistrophy” erinnert. Die Abfolge von langen Phrasen beginnt immer  mit den dann aber verschieden weitergesponnen werden. Wo das thematisch Fixierte in Improvisation übergeht, ist kaum zu erkennen. Der moderate Beat wird nie gespielt, und die Instrumente lösen sich allmählich aus dem Unisono. Und trotzdem ist der transparente Singsang der Bassklarinette rhythmisch – und nicht simple. “Stillness is what creates love. Movement is what creats life. To be still and still moving, this is everything”. Laut ein Zitat von Do Hyun Choe auf dem CD-Cover.

More and more, it seems, the interesting creations can be found on only obscure small labels.  Recently I received mail from Hong Kong, “With my current band “Signal To Noise” - with the Japanese pianist Masako Hamamura, the bassist Peter Scherr and the Frenchman Edward Perraud, on drums, we go on tour in France, among other things a concert at  Maison de la Radio France”, an American soprano saxophonist wrote me named Joe Rosenberg. “We present also our new CD ‘Tag’, a Joint Venture of ‘1hr Music’ and ‘Quarck Records’. This is my 11th CD as leader.” by Jürg Solothirnmann

Joe Rosenberg - never heard of him, but the music on the CD awoke my attention and curiosity. Rosenberg sent more information, and I made a tedious search on the internet. Here are a few facts. Born 1955 and raised in Boston, Rosenberg apparently started late in music. He studied with the classical saxophonist Joseph Viola and then, integrated in the scene of Los Angeles, with Buddy Colette and clarinetist John Carter. Besides the clarinet, his main instrument became the soprano saxophone. In the early'90s, Rosenberg waded through the early avant-garde jazz, with four CDs for "Music & Arts" - along with Dewey Redman (themes by Ornette Coleman) and Buddy Collette (themes by Dolphy and Mingus Braxton). Already then Rosenberg’s spirit of initiative announced, that he might expand the boundaries as a player full of character with own ideas. Dolphy, Coleman, Anthony Braxton, and modern composers inspired him both as an improviser and a composer/concept-maker, like his website clearly shows. His sound has a certain similarity with Steve Lacy, but is softer.

Rosenberg is very interested in East Asia. He has played and lived for longer time time in Bali and Japan, and since 1995 in Hong Kong, which is his basis for gigs in Macao, China and Japan together with other immigrated jazz musicians, but also with renowned representatives of the Chinese dance and theater. But there is also a strong contact with Europe, because his musical orientation often finds more resonance here. His CDs were released partially on "Black Saint" in Italy (in 2005 the live-CD "Quicksand" with Masako Hamamura, Mark Helias and Tom Rainey), and he played with the saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet from Lyon and the drummer Edward Perraud (also a member of Daniel Erdmann’s ”Das Kapital“).

Now he has apparently found the right formula. The former "Joe Rosenberg Quartet" is now named "Signal To Noise," which underlines the importance of the constructive contribution of the team. Rosenberg writes and introduces the themes, but there are also discussions about the tactical and formal possibilities. The collective thematic development is at the center - characterized by a compositional flair. The jazz conventions keep on being alternatives, but in the seven original pieces or concepts, there are few standard situations and there’s no work to rule.

Rosenberg quotes Anthony Braxton: “I'm not interested in a music that's about me or, that I can explain every component of.  I'm interested in controlling those components having to do with what I feel I can control, with out it getting in the way of the music.” Form is necessary, but isn’t given, but rather a process that develops from instant to instant. It seems that Rosenberg is often inspired by the scarcity like it can be found with Monk, Lacy and Mal Waldron, and pausing in his approach plays an important role.

According to dictionary "tag" means various things: sticker, label, name plate, header etc. Similarly, the sound improvisation under this title takes all directions. "Three Farmers" has a thoughtful, measured unison theme that remotely recalls Monks "Epistrophy". The chain of long phrases always begins with the same three tones, but then spun on differently each time. It is hard to recognize where the thematically fixed merges into improvisation. The moderate pulse is never played explicitly while the instruments gradually disassociate from the unison. And yet, the transparent singsong of the bass clarinet stays rhythmical - and not simplistic at all. "Stillness is what creates love. Movement is what creates life. To be still and still moving, this is everything," reads a quote by Do Huyn Choe on the CD cover.

BAD ALCHEMY • Rigobert Dittmann – June 2009

SIGNAL TO NOISE Tag (Quark/1hr Music, CD-010): Bei Signal to Noise denke ich eigentlich an Schweizer Electroniker. Aber hier ist es ein NowJazz-Quartett des aus Boston stammenden Sopranosaxophonisten & Bassklarinettisten Joe Rosenberg mit der Pianistin Masako Hamamura aus Kobe, dem in Hong Kong lebenden Bassisten Peter Scherr und Edward Perraud an den Drums. Um den Pariser Trommler (& Fotografen) bad alchemystisch einzuordnen, nenne ich nur Hubbub und Das Kapital, sein Trio mit Daniel Erdmann und Hasse Poulssen, an der Seite von Rosenberg taucht er seit 2000 regelmäßig auf. Peter Scherr ist tatsächlich der Bruder des Sex Mob-Bassisten Tony Scherr und unterstützt immer wieder dessen eigenen Projekte. Rosenberg macht kein Geheimnis aus seiner Verehrung für Ornette Coleman und Eric Dolphy, von Mitte der 90er an entwickelte er eigenes Profil. Mit Hamamuras - anders als Takase und Fujii - feminin gepflegtem, entschlacktem Pianoklang und Scherrs weich gepolsterten, summenden Basstönen gelingen Rosenberg sehr träumerische und swingende Exkursionen ins Schwerelose. Selbst Perraud, der ja auch ganz andere Neigungen hat, zeigt hier, knackig und federnd, nur beim finalen ‚7 from 11‘ auch mit stechenden Frequenzen von gestrichener Cymbal, seine apollinische Seite. Rosenbergs asiatisch weise abgeklärten Kompositionen sind alles andere als unterkomplex, aber sie meiden in ihrem Schönheitssinn die Schatten, die von Müllbergen geworfen werden. [ba 63 rbd]

Concerning Signal to Noise properly speaking I think of Swiss electronic. But here it is now a jazz quartet of Joe Rosenberg, a soprano-saxophon bass-clarinette player who originally came from Boston, with the piano player Masako Hamamura from Kobe, the bass player Peter Scherr, who lives in Hong Kong and Edward Perraud who plays the drums. To define the Paris drummer and photographer “alchemistical”, I only mention Hubbub and Das Kapital, his trio with Danile Erdmann and Hasse Poulssen, he regularly appears with Joe Rosenberg since year 2000. Peter Scherr is in deed the brother of the Sex Mob-bass-player Tony Scherr and supports again and again his own projects. Rosenberg does not hide that he adores Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, from the mid nineties he developed  his own profile. With Hamamura – other than Takase and Fuji – female cultivated, un-slaggy piano sound and Scherr’s soft upholstered, humming bass. Rosenberg succeeds to make very dreamlike and swinging excursions into weightlessness. Even Perraud, who is also inclined by other things, performs here cracking and elastic, only in the final ‘7 from 11’ he shows with a stinging frequency of stringing the cymbal his apolonic side. Rosenbergs Asian-wise mature compositions are everything else but un-complex but they avoid in their sense of beauty the shadow that comes from the mountains of garbage.