Joe Rosenberg Ensemble

TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS • Quark Records QR201724

Joe Rosenberg (ss), Didier Petit (vc), Bruno Angelini (p), Arnault Cuisinier (b), Edward Perraud (ds)

MR. STU’S RECORD ROOM • Stuart Kremsky - August  2018

The concept of time, the way it seems to flow in only one direction and the hidden nature of the future, forms the intellectual framework of Tomorrow Never Knows, the latest provocation by the Joe Rosenberg Ensemble. Soprano saxophonist Rosenberg contributes a trio of original compositions to the project, Before, During, and After, which share the program with three lengthy explorations of material from widely disparate traditions. The title track is the well-known Lennon-McCartney song from the Beatles’ Revolver album. Lalit is by contemporary Hindustani classical vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan, and Portrait of Tracy is probably the best-known composition by famed electric bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Rosenberg and drummer Edward Perraud have worked together since at least 2000, when the saxophonist’s The Long & Short Of It was recorded for Black Saint. Pianist Bruno Angelini, cellist Didier Petit, and bassist Arnault Cuisinier are more recent recruits, first appearing as a unit on Resolution (Quark) in 2012. By now, they’ve established a sound that combines rhythmic and harmonic complexity with sure-footed group interaction. The blend of cello and bass gives the ensemble a deliciously dense bottom, and a resilience that proves liberating for Perraud’s excitable drumming and Angelini’s stabbing piano.

Lalit opens the disc with a fine example of the group at its sensuous best. Starting out calmly and growing more heated over the course of the 12-minute performance, the ensemble confidently probes the nooks and crannies of Khan’s song. Before is mysterious and unresolved. Sounds swirl and clatter with Rosenberg’s edgy soprano at the center underpinned by Perraud’s restrained drums. The band’s dramatic Portrait of Tracy features Rosenberg caressing the melody while the rest of the ensemble provides a nuanced and carefully delineated backdrop. The invaluable Perraud keeps things flowing, with pianist Angelini’s agile comping a big part of the mix. A brief bass solo by Cuisinier is measured and cool, leading into an entrancing duet with cellist Petit, followed by an angular and commanding piano solo by Angelini. The band sounds appropriately anxious on During, four minutes of contrasting and spasmodic riffs with no one instrument dominant in the mix.

Up next, the Beatles’ song comes as a bit of a relief. While Perraud sounds a bit restrained, at least at first, the bass and cello go all out to represent the electronic flourishes of the original recording. Rosenberg, not surprisingly, uses his most vocal approach to the horn. Relax your mind, indeed. Finally, there’s the spacious ballad After, the kind of gentle tune that’s not sure of where it’s going and is in no hurry to get there. Interlaced solos by bassist Cuisinier and pianist Angelini bracket Rosenberg’s warmly interrogative solos to bring the disc to a deeply satisfying conclusion. Tomorrow Never Knows is a gem of creative music, highly recommended.

SALT PEANUTS• Eyal Hareuveni • February 2018

American, Paris-based sax player-composer Joe Rosenberg has mastered the art of connecting what most of us would consider as unconceivable. His new album with his Ensemble – cellist Didier Petit (who played on the Ensemble’s 2014 «Resolution», replacing sax player Daniel Erdmann) and pianist Bruno Angelini, bass player Arnault Cusinier and drummer Edward Perraud, all played on the Ensemble’s «Resolution» and 2016 album «Rituals and Legends» (both albums released on Perraud’s label, Quark) – continues to expand this inclusive vision.

«Tomorrow Never Knows» focuses on connections between past, present and future and what may be considered as far away musical universes. Rosenberg even frames the album’s state of mind with quotes of legendary baseball catcher Yogi Berra («it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future»), Albert Einstein and Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs.

«Tomorrow Never Knows» is divided into three extended compositions where the ensemble incorporates somehow foreign musical universes into its own, open and inclusive jazz aesthetics. The additional three shorter compositions – «Before», «During» and «After» – comment and frame the extended ones in an imaginary timeline of jazz history as Rosenberg and his Ensemble interprets it.

The opening piece, «Lalit» is based on the classical Hindustani serene, dawn raga, as performed by vocal master Ustad Rashid Khan. Only the soprano sax of Rosenberg suggests the spiritual, serene tones of the original raga while the Ensemble frames these tones in a loose yet urgent interplay. The following piece, Rosenberg’s «Before» sounds much more as referencing a meditative, contemplative raga, anchored by Angelini fragmented lines and the soft blows of Rosenberg.

Jaco Pastorius’ much-covered, heartfelt tribute to his wife, «Portrait of Tracy», offers a touching solo of Rosenberg, contrasted by dark, reserved solos of Cusinier and Petit, none of these somehow sober solos attempts to replicate Pastorius virtuosi technique or the original dreamy spirit of this piece. It is followed by Rosenberg’s «During» that offers a complex rhythmic module for the Ensemble.

The cover of John Lennon’s psychedelic-experimental-Indian «Tomorrow Never Knows» (from The Beatles’ «Revolver», 1966), follows at first the song rhythmic flow, and Rosenberg sax sings the original melody. But soon the Ensemble shifts its interplay into a searching, intense one that stresses the Eastern nuances of this song and its unconventional pulse. The album is concluded with «After», Ellis Marsalis’ beautiful ballad. After all, even if we don’t know what tomorrow may bring, we had better trust our instincts and intuition and follow this beautiful journey of Joe Rosenberg Ensemble.

JAZZ MAGAZINE • Ludovic Florin • February 2018

Nouveauté.  Un grand leader est un alchimiste de personalities.  Joe Rosenberg est un grande leader.  Par certains aspects de son son, il evoque Wayne Shorter, mais aussi Steve Lacy.  Le repertoire de son nouveau disque passé sans trembler d’une reprise d’Ustad Rashid Khan a John Lennon ou Ellis Marsalis, chaque fois avec gout et coherence.  “Tomorrow Never Knows” est une reflexion sur le temps, ni dramatique, ni cyclique.  Voila une musique qui d’une certaine facon se laisse traverser par le temps.  En revanche, c’est un jeu sur le continuum temporal qui domine la troiseme plage, une repsrise du Portrait Of Tracy de Jaco Pastorius, que Joe Rosenberg fait sonner un peu comme Charles Mingus avec une touché de Thelonious Monk, notamment au moment des improvisations.  La version de Tomorrow Never Knows de Lennon ne serait d’ailleurs sans doute pas reniee par The Bad Plus.  On l’aura compris, tous ces musiciens sont au diapason d’une expression singuliere, fine, sensible et habitee.

A great leader is an alchemist of personalities.  Joe Rosenberg is a great leader.  In some aspects of his sound, he evokes Wayne Shorter, but also Steve Lacy.  The repertoire of his new record passes without trembling, from a cover of Ustad Rashid Khan to John Lennon or Ellis Marsalis, each time with taste and consistency.  "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a reflection of the times, neither dramatic nor cyclical.  Here is a music which in a certain way goes through the times.  On the other hand, it is a play on the temporal continuum which dominates the third track, a repsrise of Portrait of Tracy by Jaco Pastorius, which Joe Rosenberg makes sound a little like Charles Mingus with a touch of Thelonious Monk, in particular during the improvisations.  The version of Tomorrow Never Knows by Lennon would probably not be renounced by The Bad Plus.  One will understand, all these musicians are in tune with a singular expression, fine, sensitive and inhabited.

REVUE & CORRIGÉE • Joel Pagier • January 2018

Cela commence donc par le piano de Bruno Angelini : mélodie en apnée, toucher délicat, notes en suspens tendues vers l'immédiat, geste précis puis en arrêt… A peine dispersé, le son déjà s'étouffe. Un doigt sur une corde en interdit la résonance, comme pour mieux accueillir le chuchotis d'une cymbale… Car Edward Perraud est là lui aussi, attentif à la fragilité de ce monstre sensible et que sa seule présence rassure. Il lui faut toutefois, pour l'apprivoiser, en appeler à la solidarité naturelle des graves dont la pesanteur affirmée contient à la fois l'équilibre et la force, l'ascendant et l'aplomb campés ici dans sa verticalité par la contrebasse d'Arnaud Cuisinier. Le trio peu à peu s'épaissit dans cette confiance gagnée, répond d'une frappe sur la caisse-claire à l'audace d'un accord plaqué, ose la longue vibration du métal écrasé sur la touche. Jusqu'à l'instant attendu où le cuivre pénètre la souplesse de cette matière organique tissée de filaments humains aux prolongements mécaniques. Le soprano de Joe Rosenberg possède en effet l'étrange faculté de se fondre dans l'atmosphère et de s'y laisser oublier, en dépit du rôle essentiel qu'il est dès lors tenu d'y jouer. Appartenir au paysage pour mieux s'en détacher en tant que personnage, tel est le dessein du saxophoniste dont le chant, cependant, semble se dédoubler et sans effort se disloquer en voicings impeccables. Aucune prouesse diphonique, pourtant, dans cette première intervention du leader, car si vous l'écoutez vraiment, avec toute la concentration requise, vous admettrez bientôt que cette ligne parallèle qui suit pas à pas la phrase première n'a pas la même consistance et ne peut être émise par un même instrument. Il y a du bois dans cette seconde voix, dont on peut sentir les nervures, et de l'acier encore, chèrement effleuré, poussé dans ses plus tangibles extrémités comme si le violoncelle de Didier Petit avait passé la porte en même temps que Rosenberg et s'était fait l'écho de son souffle avant de prendre le large.

Une fois réunis en un seul Ensemble autour des compositions du sopraniste, d'Ustad Rashid Khan, Jaco Pastorius, John Lennon ou Ellis Marsalis, chacun va d'ailleurs suivre son chemin sans perdre pour autant le but commun. La densité du quintet exige la présence active, même dans le silence, du moindre matériau susceptible d'y contribuer et ce n'est qu'une fois la certitude acquise de cette unité que l'un ou l'autre pourra jouir de sa liberté. Ce dont les partenaires ne se privent guère et ce malgré une sagesse apparente, ici assumée par la pureté du cuivre et la fluidité de ses lignes. "Demain ne sait jamais" ce dont il sera fait et moins encore comme il sonnera. Ainsi, ces inflexions médiévales déroutant le phrasé du saxophone ne témoignent d'aucune nostalgie et se fondent aussi naturellement dans la trame harmonique empreinte de blues et développée par le pianiste que dans la rythmique discrètement imposée par le batteur et le percussionniste. Ecoutez ces longues plaintes pliant la mélodie sous la pression d'un doigt où pèse tout le corps, l'ironie d'une cymbale cristalline aussitôt contrariée par le roulement péremptoire des baguettes sur la peau tendue ! Dans cette maligne complexion de maîtrise et de témérité, le violoncelle endosse de facto le rôle du passeur, celui grâce auquel les risques encourus trouveront logiquement leur résolution et le classicisme inhérent, son versant le plus créatif. Abandonnant les vocalises qui parasitent quelquefois l'évidence de son jeu, Didier Petit se concentre sur cette responsabilité qui lui incombe et, osant le lyrisme du free, la gravité romantique ou le décalage contemporain, infléchit dans un sens ou l'autre les orientations premières du quintet.

Inscrit dans une forme d'expression immédiate qui eût pu le réduire à sa seule fonction esthétique, Joe Rosenberg échappe à ce travers grâce au choix de ses musiciens, compagnons de longue durée qui ne craignant pas la beauté, ni de s'en instituer les interprètes, débusquent au détour de leur sincérité des perles plus originales que dans bien des productions se réclamant de l'avant-garde.

So it starts with Bruno Angelini's piano: melody in apnea, delicate touch, notes suspended in the immediate direction, precise gesture, then it stops scarcely dispersed, the sound already chokes. A finger on a string forbids the resonance, as to better accommodate the whispering of a cymbal ... because Edward Perraud is there too, attentive to the fragility of this sensitive monster, and only his reassuring presence. However, in order to tame it, he needs to appeal to the natural solidarity of the seriousness whose affirmed weight contains at once the balance and the strength, the ascendancy and the firmness here encircled in its verticality by the double bass of Arnaud Cuisinier.

The trio gradually thickens in this earned confidence, responds with a strike on the snare drum to the audacity of a plated chord, dares the long vibration of the crushed metal on the key. Until the expected moment when copper penetrates the flexibility of this woven organic material of human filaments with mechanical extensions. The soprano of Joe Rosenberg indeed has the strange faculty to blend in the atmosphere and to let it be forgotten, in spite of the essential role, that he is from then on obliged to play.

Belonging to the landscape to better detach from it as a character, this is the intention of the saxophonist whose song however, seems to be split and effortlessly dislocated in impeccable voicings. No overtures however, in this first intervention of the leader, because if you really listen with all the concentration required, you will soon realize that this parallel line that follows step by step the first sentence does not have the same consistency and can not be issued by the same instrument. There is wood in this second voice, whose ribs one can feel, and steel still, dearly touched, pushed into its most tangible extremities as if the cello of Didier Petit had passed the door at the same time as Rosenberg and had echoed his breath before taking off.

Once assembled into a single Ensemble around the compositions of the soprano, Ustad Rashid Khan, Jaco Pastorius, John Lennon or Ellis Marsalis, each will follow his path without losing the common goal. The density of the quintet requires active presence, even in silence, of the least material likely to contribute to it, and it is only once the certainty of this unity is acquired, that one or the other will be able to enjoy his freedom.

What the partners do not deprive themselves, and this despite an apparent wisdom, here assumed by the purity of copper and the fluidity of its lines. "Tomorrow never knows" what it will be done and even less as it will sound. Thus, these medieval inflections confusing the phrasing of the saxophone do not show any nostalgia and are as naturally grounded in the blues-inspired harmonic structure developed by the pianist as in the discreetly imposed rhythms by the drummer and percussionist. Listen to these long wails bending the melody under the pressure of a finger where the whole body weighs, the irony of a crystal cymbal immediately thwarted by the peremptory rolling of chopsticks on the stretched skin!

In this malignant complexion of mastery and temerity, the cello de facto assumes the role of the ferryman, the one through which the risks incurred will logically find their resolution and the inherent classicism, its most creative side. Abandoning the vocalizations that sometimes parasitize the evidence of his playing, Didier Petit focuses on this responsibility which is incumbent on him and, daring the lyricism of the free, the romantic gravity or the contemporary offset, inflects in one direction or the other the first directions of the quintet.

Inscribed in a form of immediate expression that could have reduced it to its sole aesthetic function, Joe Rosenberg escapes this through his choice of musicians, long-term companions who do not fear the beauty nor to build on the interpreters, find in the course of their sincerity pearls more original than in many productions claiming the avant-garde.

LE SON DU GRISLI • Luc Bouquet• Decembre 2017

Dans cette bulle nommée espace, il faut savoir quoi faire: étrangler, fluidifier, écarter, diffracter...  Après les rounds d’observation d’usage, Joe Rosenberg, Didier Petit, Bruno Angelini, Arnault Cuisinier et Edward Perraud précisent leurs envies : naviguer sans diktats sans pour autant gommer forme(s) et port d’arrivée.

De cette « liberté surveillée » – mais jamais cadenassée – ils réservent aux compositions d’Ustad Rashid Khan, Jaco Pastorius, John Lennon et Ellis Marsalis d’étranges mouvements: décalages rythmiques et harmonies lascives (Portrait of Tracy), mélodies disloquées-étirées (Tomorrow Never Knows), résurgences méditatives (After) tandis que les deux compositions du leader (Before, During) frolent plutot qu’elles ne percutent une sphère aux issues rassurantes.

In this bubble called space, you have to know what to do: strangle, fluidify, spread, diffract ...  After the rounds of observation of usage, Joe Rosenberg, Didier Petit, Bruno Angelini, Arnault Cuisinier and Edward Perraud specify their desires: navigate without dictates without erasing form(s) or port of arrival.

From this "supervised freedom" - but never padlocked - they reserve for compositions by Ustad Rashid Khan, Jaco Pastorius, John Lennon and Ellis Marsalis strange movements: rhythmic shifts and lascivious harmonies (Portrait of Tracy), dislocated-stretched melodies (Tomorrow Never Knows), meditative resurgences (After) while the two compositions of the leader (Before, During) frolic, rather than impact a sphere with reassuring issues.

ALL ABOUT JAZZ • Jerome Wilson • November 2017

Joe Rosenberg is a soprano saxophonist who, at one time, lived in the Bay Area collaborating with musicians like Dewey Redman and Buddy Collette and recording tributes to Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman. For the last several years he has been living in Asia and also collaborating with French musicians. These two CDs, by different configurations of his ensemble, showcase the sensuous, intriguing music he's been making lately.

Rituals and Legends features anywhere from two to five saxophones per track playing music that originally comes out of Africa and Asia. "Ramkali" is an Indian melody with two sopranos unwinding slowly over a languorous piano-led rhythm section. When it comes to their solo space Rosenberg and  HYPERLINK "javascript:void(0)" Daniel Erdmann go down different paths, one creates a dreamy, melodic flow and the other sound off in a crankier, higher-pitched mode. "Akazehe" is a Burundi greeting laid down as a repeating riff by the piano and bass with three saxophones chugging over it. Rosenberg takes an intricate, serpentine path over the rhythmic turbulence,  HYPERLINK "javascript:void(0)" Stephane Payen slowly works up to fierce intensity on alto and Erdmann, on tenor, rolls over the bumpy beat with measured lower-register blowing.

The rhythm section does a 4/4 creep in the beginning of "Teen Taal" before a sax quartet of soprano, alto, tenor and baritone come in wriggling and twisting in unison. The sax players all dodge in and out of one another with precision and pianist  HYPERLINK "javascript:void(0)" Bruno Angelini has room for his own stimulating, brisk solo, all this over Arnault Cuisinier's implacable walking beat. "Kecak," a Balinese chant and dance, utilizes five saxophones playing long lines together like tuned foghorns before a shift to deliberate hammering piano notes and percolating unison sax passages that alternate with woozy, drifting features for each member of the rhythm section. The alternate version of "Ramkali" is not a mere clone of the first. This take has a slower, late night vibe with the saxophones taking on a cooler, bluesier tone.

For his 2017 opus, Rosenberg changes some of his ensemble's personnel. The pianist, bassist and drummer remain the same but the additional sax players are replaced by cellist Didier Petit. Obviously that means more space for the rhythm section and that's immediately evident as they begin the opening "Lalit," drifting along with spare piano notes and tense percussion before Rosenberg and Petit surge in playing long tones and the tempo picks up until the quintet coalesces into a fast, shimmering raga groove.

Jaco Pastorius's "Portrait Of Tracy" gets a beautiful, languid statement by soprano and cello before Rosenberg starts improvising short, brisk phrases over prickly rhythmic turbulence. Appropriately for a Pastorius tune, bassist Cusinier gets a showy turn of resonant solo plucking and bowing and Petit also takes a flashy, swooping solo. John Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a real highlight with smeary cello and decorative piano adding drama to the familiar drum groove and Rosenberg doing a strong and smooth rendition of the melody. Then Angelini's piano scrambles over the steady rhythm vamp, Perraud takes a deliberate solo and Rosenberg bleeds and honks, all as the beat rolls on. "Before" and "During" are shorter atmospheric pieces with a semi-abstract tension that lead into Ellis Marsalis' "After" which starts out like a Paul Bley performance with Angelini making slow, hesitant passes at the melody and Cuisnier and Perraud filling in the spaces before Rosenberg joins in playing a sad, yearning melody and the entire piece slowly begins to sway to a torpid tropical rhythm.  Working quietly out of the spotlight, Joe Rosenberg is making remarkable music of sly beauty and elegance.

JAZZ PODIUM • Benno Bartsch • November 2017

Der aus Boston stammende Sopransaxophonist und Komponist Joe Rosenberg zeigte mit seinen Hommage–CDs für Ornette Coleman und Eric Dolphy, die er bereits in den 90er Jahren für Music & Arts aufnahm, worauf es ihm ankommt: auf das enge Aufeinander-Bezogensein von Komposition und Improvisation, auf eine geistige – nicht spirituelle – Durchdringung und Vertiefung des musikalischen Materials.   Später lernte er wahrend eines jahrelangen Aufenthaltes in Asien viel über die besonderen Musiziepraktiken insbesondere Indiens und Indonesiens und überführte sie vorbildhaft in den Jazz, ohne jemals ein weltmusikalisches Konglomerat des Inkompatiblen versucht zu haben.

Gegenwärtig verbringt er viel Zeit in Frankreich, wo er auch ein eigenes Quintett mit dem Cellisten Didier Petit, dem italienischen Pianisten Bruno Angelini, dem Bassisten Arnault Cuisinier und dem Schlagzeuger Edward Perraud leitet.  Seine vierte CD für das Label Quark Records stellt eine musikalische Auseinandersetzung, Gegenwart und Zukunft – entsprechend gibt es auch die drei Titel „Before“, „During“ und „After“ zu hören, jeweils kommentiert durch je eine Komposition von Ustad Rashid Khan, Jaco Pastorious und John Lennon.  Man könnte diese CD als musikalischen Essay über die (musikalische?) Zeit bezeichnen.

Das Programm beginnt mit „Lalit“, das auf einer Raga des indischen Komponisten Ustad Rashid Khan basiert, das zaghaft beginnt, wie das Suchen in der Erinnerung, und sich langsam verdichtet und dabei stetig die Mystik des Vergangenen, die Brüchigkeit der Erinnerung evoziert.  Nach sukzessiver Verdichtung des musikalischen Geschehens landet das Stück schließlich im rasanten Thema des Stükkes.

„Before“ ist eine freie Improvisation, ebenso zögerlich und mystisch.  Jaco Pastorious’ „Portait of Tracy“ kommt dagegen zupackend gegenwärtig daher.  „During“, ebenfalls eine freie Improvisation, illustriert musikalisch die Gleichzeitigkeit im Gegenwärtigen durch paralleles, ganz unterschiedliches Agieren der Musiker. Der Knaller der CD ist das Titelstück.  „Tomorrow Never Knows“ ist eine Komposition von John Lennon, die 1966 auf de Beatles-LP „Revolver“ erschien und eines der ersten psychedelischen und indisch beeinflussten Stucke der Rockgeschichte war.

Rosenberg übernimmt die hypnotische Eintönigkeit des (Tambura) Borduns und des ständig wiederholten rhythmischen Patterns und entfaltet darüber, ganz im Sinne der Vorlage, die aus der Phantasie geborene Vielfalt musikalischer Möglichkeiten, über der Hypnose quasi das freie Bewusstsein, markiert so vielleicht den Doppelcharakter der Zukunft aus Angst und Gestaltungswille und lasst das Ganze so zur musikalischen Allegorie werden.  Den Ausklang bildet das lyrische und versöhnliche „After“ von Ellis Marsalis.  

Was diese Musik so spannend macht, ist ihr Hang zur Langsamkeit und ihre damit gewonnene Transparenz.  Das musikalische Ganze funktioniert wie eine Erzählung, in der eines das andere ergibt und in der nichts verständlich wäre ohne die Erinnerung an das vorher Erklungene.  Kein Ton ist hier überflüssig.  Rosenberg spielt die groβen Bögen seiner Phrasen mit langem Atem, ganz ungehetzt zu Ende, dabei zeigt er keinerlei Ängste vor langen Tonen oder Pausen.

In seinem Konzept wird dem vermittelten Nacheinander, dem Aufeinander reagieren gegenüber der unvermittelten und zufälligen Gleichzeitigkeit der Vorrang gegeben.  Die fünf hervorragend aufeinander eingestimmten Musiker schaffen es, durch perfekte dramaturgische Beherrschung sukzessiv die Physiognomie ihrer Musik wahrend des Stuckverlaufs mehrmals zu andern, ohne ihren Gesamtcharakter zu sprengen.  Das ist spannende Zuhör-Musik im besten Sinne etwas ganz Besonderes, und auf eine ganz besondere Weise auch etwas Neuartiges.

The soprano saxophonist and composer Joe Rosenberg from Boston, with his homage CDs for Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy which he recorded for Music & Arts in the 1990s, emphasized the close relationship between composition and improvisation , to a spiritual - not spiritual - penetration and deepening of the musical material.  Later, during a period of several years in Asia, he learned a lot about the musical practices of India and Indonesia in particular, and transferred them to jazz without ever attempting a world-conglomerate of the incompatible.

He is currently spending a lot of time in France, where he also directs his own quintet with the cellist Didier Petit, the Italian pianist Bruno Angelini, the bassist Arnault Cuisinier and the percussionist Edward Perraud.  His fourth CD for the label Quark Records is a musical exploration, present and future - correspondingly there are the three titles "Before", "During" and "After", each commenting on compositions, by Ustad Rashid Khan, Jaco Pastorious and John Lennon.  One could call this CD a musical essay on (musical?) time.

The program begins with "Lalit", which is based on a raga by the Indian composer Ustad Rashid Khan, which begins timidly, like the search in the memory, and slowly condensed, steadily evoking the mysticism of the past, the brittleness of memory.  After successive compaction of the musical event, the playing ends up in the fast-paced theme of the piece.

"Before" is a free improvisation, equally hesitant and mystical.  Jaco Pastorius’ "Portait of Tracy ", on the other hand, is vigorously presented.  "During", also a free improvisation, musically illustrates the simultaneity in the present through parallel, very different acting of the musicians.  The hit of the CD is the title track.  "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a composition by John Lennon, which appeared in 1966 on the Beatles’ LP "Revolver" and was one of the first psychedelic and Indian influenced pieces in rock history.

Rosenberg assumes the hypnotic monotony of the (tambura) drone and the constantly repeated rhythmic pattern, and unfolds, in the sense of the original, the variety of musical possibilities borne out of the imagination, over the hypnosis almost free consciousness, thus perhaps the double character of fear of the future out and creative power, and thus makse the whole thing become a musical allegory.  The ending is the lyrical and conciliatory "After" of Ellis Marsalis.

What makes this music so exciting is its slowness and its transparency.  The whole musical works like a narrative, in which one gives to the other, and in which nothing would be comprehensible without the memory of what had previously been said.  No sound is superfluous.  Rosenberg plays the great arches of his phrases with a long breath, completely untimed to the end, showing no fear of long tones or breaks.  In his concept, priority is given to the mediated succession, to the reaction to one another, to the unexpected and accidental simultaneity.  The five superbly attuned musicians succeed in successively changing the physiognomy of their music during the course of the piece, without violating the overall characteristics, by means of perfect dramatic mastery.  This is exciting listening music, in the best sense, something very special and in a very special way also something new.

JAZZZEITUNG• Michael Scheiner • November 2017     Lebensäußerung voller Zuversicht: Neue CD des Joe Rosenberg Ensembles

„Es ist schwierig Vorhersagen zu treffen, vor allem über die Zukunft.“ Was sich wie ein Bonmot aus dem Mund eines schneidigen Kabarettisten anhört, welcher Josef Hader ähnelt, ist ein Ausspruch des amerikanischen Baseballspielers Lawrence Peter „Yogi“ Berra, der 90-jährig vor zwei Jahren gestorben ist. Der in Hongkong und Frankreich lebende amerikanische Saxofonist Joe Rosenberg zitiert auf seinem mittlerweile 13. Album als Leader weitere kluge und bedeutende Leute, wie Steve Jobs und Albert Einstein. Letzterem wird die Sentenz zugeschrieben, dass „für uns der Unterschied zwischen Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft nur eine Illusion ist, wenn auch eine ziemlich hartnäckige.“

Rosenberg zieht diese Gedanken heran, um Parallelen und Andockpunkte zu seiner künstlerischen Praxis zu verdeutlichen. Das nicht Kalkulierbare, ein grundlegendes Moment des Lebens überhaupt, hat auch für die Musik des 62-Jährigen konstitutive Bedeutung, beruht sie doch auch auf improvisierten Teilen. Dem steht freilich die Aufnahme als reproduzierbares Kunstwerk diametral gegenüber. Denn sie bildet den „gefrorenen“ unveränderlichen Moment ab und könnte damit – nach mehrmaligen Abhören – Ton für Ton vorhergesagt werden. Gewiss ist sich Rosenberg dieses Widerspruchs bewusst und reklamiert die Transzendenz des Unvorhersehbaren dennoch kapriziös lächelnd für sich. Dabei enthält dieses nach einem John-Lennon-Song benannte Album auf den ersten Eindruck weniger Freiräume für Improvisation als ältere Alben Rosenbergs.

Neben der Lennon-McCartney-Komposition, die vor allem vom Cello Didier Petits und grellen Akkorden Bruno Angelinis (Piano) vorwärts gepeitscht wird, enthält es die Bearbeitung eines Jaco Pastorius-Stückes, Kompositionen von Ellis Marsalis – „After“ – und des pakistanischen Musikers Ustad Rashid Khan, sowie zwei eigene Nummern des Bandleaders. Den für die damalige Zeit und Aufnahmetechnik reichlich abgefahrenen Beatlessong – vielen klingt er heute noch avantgardistisch im Ohr – aus „Revolver“ behält Rosenberg zunächst rhythmisch und strukturell ähnlich wie das ver-rückte Original bei. Etwa ab der Mitte folgt eine perkussive Überleitung und danach mehrere markante Soli, wobei die Grundstimmung des ungewöhnlichen Popsongs immer durchhörbar ist. Begleitet von erhaben-mahnenden Trommelschlägen endet „Tomorrow Never Knows“ irgendwo im Nirwana. Auch wenn Rosenbergs Version deutlich länger, ausgefeilter und  „diskursiver“ ist als das Original von 1966, erreicht es nicht dessen lustvolle Entschlossenheit und hypnotisch-ergetische Konfusion.

Gegenüber dem ruhigen, anfänglich in Khans „Lalit“ gar meditativen Duktus des eindringlichen, gelegentlich pathetischen Albums schlägt „Tomorrow Never Knows“ sogar ein wenig über die Stränge. Die Eigenkomposition „Before“ zelebrieren Piano und Cello mit einer gewissen Erhabenheit, die Raum für freies Spiel lässt. Rosenberg versteht sein mit einem prachtvollen Schmetterling bebildertes Album als Aufforderung für Hoffnung und Optimismus. Seine Musik strahlt bei aller Kantigkeit und punktueller Grellheit Schönheit, eine starke innere Gelassenheit und intellektuelle Verspieltheit aus – eine zuversichtliche Lebensäußerung. Das an sich ist schon großartig, zusammen mit der eindrucksvollen, erlesenen Musik ist es eine kleine Kostbarkeit!

                                             Expression of life, full of confidence: New CD from Joe Rosenberg Ensemble

"It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future."  What sounds like a bon mot from the mouth of a dashing cabaret artist resembling Josef Hader is a saying by 90-year-old American baseball player Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra who died two years ago.  The American saxophonist Joe Rosenberg, who lives in Hong Kong and France, quotes him on his 13th album as a leader, and other wise important people, such as Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.  The latter is credited with the sentence that "for us the difference between past, present and future is only an illusion, albeit a rather persistent one."

Rosenberg uses these ideas to illustrate parallels and docking points to his artistic practice. The not calculable, a fundamental moment of life at all, has constitutive significance for the music of the 62-year-old, but it is also based on improvised parts. Of course, this is diametrically opposed to the recording as a reproducible work of art. Because it depicts the "frozen" unchanging moment and could thus - after repeated listening - be predicted tone by tone. Surely Rosenberg is aware of this contradiction and reclaims the transcendence of the unpredictable with a capricious smile. At first glance, this album, named after a John Lennon song, contains less space for improvisation than older Rosenberg albums. In addition to the Lennon-McCartney composition, which is mainly whipped up by Didier Petit’s cello and the forward pacing chords of Bruno Angelini (piano), it includes the treatment of a Jaco Pastorius piece, compositions by Ellis Marsalis - "After" - and the Pakistani musician Ustad Rashid Khan, as well as two of own numbers of the bandleader.

The Beatlesong, which was much worn down for the time and recording technology, sounds avant-garde in the ears of many - from a "revolver" Rosenberg retains its rhythmic and structural similarity to the original version. Approximately from the middle follows a percussive transition and then several striking solos, the basic mood of the unusual pop song is always audible. Accompanied by sublime-sounding drumbeats, "Tomorrow Never Knows" ends somewhere in Nirvana. Although Rosenberg's version is significantly longer, more sophisticated and "discursive" than the original from 1966, it does not achieve its lustful determination and hypnotic-ergetic confusion.

Compared to the initially calm, even meditative style of Khan's haunting "Lalit", which is sometimes full of pathos, the album "Tomorrow Never Knows" beats even a bit over the strings. The self-composition "Before" celebrate piano and cello with a certain sublimity, leaving room for free play. Rosenberg sees his album, illustrated with a magnificent butterfly, as a call for hope and optimism. His music, with all its angularity and punctuated brilliance, radiates beauty, a strong inner serenity and intellectual playfulness - a confident expression of life. That in itself is great, together with the impressive, exquisite music it is a small treasure!