Josh Roseman Interview
No Bones About It
Josh Roseman is making a name by tooting his own horn
by Matthew S. Robinson
| Name: Josh Roseman
Growing up in a musical family, Josh Roseman had plenty of inspiration. Josh¹s cousin Ed was an accomplished composer and musician, and his father was an amateur musician who gave Josh his first lessons on what would eventually become his signature instrument — the trombone.
“There was a lot of music in my house,” Roseman recalls, “and there was a musical bug that traveled around. My cousin got bit pretty hard and I was the indirect beneficiary of his interests.”
Starting his own musical journey by studying bass, percussion, and a number of brass instruments, Roseman went back to the woodshed during his early teenage years, spending countless hours listening to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder.
“My parents listened to all sorts of stuff, from Miles Davis to Marvin Gaye,” Roseman explains. “There was a lot of Soul and Jazz and I got totally sucked into listening. I was a rabid vinyl collector. Any money I had, I spent on records.”
And though Roseman had a number of musical heroes, none turned his head like saxophone legend Charlie Parker.
“I was blown away when I first heard him,” Roseman says. “There was a relentless, reckless brilliance to the music and it was also rhythmically challenging because he had total freedom within the beat. Though that disoriented some folks, it interested me. I wanted to try to deconstruct it, and I am still working on that.”
Working through the catalogs of Ornette Coleman and the later works of John Coltrane, Roseman began to find his own musical direction. “I looked for opportunities to fuse them with other things I had heard,” says the DownBeat Magazine “Rising Star.” “I was also looking for opportunities to play, and as those came up, it affected what I did.” Roseman began “playing out” in the 1980¹s, doing the Boston club circuit as a trombonist and bassist with several Jazz, Soul and Reggae bands. After taking courses at Berklee College of Music while still in high school, Roseman was granted a scholarship to The New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied under such local legends as George Garzone, John Swallow and Gary Valente.
“It was an inspiring situation because there was always someone practicing,” Roseman recalls. “It gave me an opportunity to stick my fingers into a community of musicians and that really sustained me as a player.” In 1988, Roseman was given the opportunity to perform and record with Oliver Lake, a member of the legendary World Saxophone Quartet, as well as with other Jazz stars such as Greg Osby, Geri Allen, and John Stubblefield. “Oliver and I had friends in common,” Roseman explains. “So after going to see him perform at the Somerville Theatre, I introduced myself. A few days later, he called me to invite me for a recording session.” As soon as the sessions were done, Roseman knew that he had to move to New York, which he did in 1990.
“It was always the plan,” he says. “The Conservatory was stimulating, but the trombone is very dependent upon the acoustics of the room in which it is played, so playing alone n a practice room was not the thing I wanted to do. I wanted to give my music a place to go. And while the scene in Boston is very nurturing, I wanted to be in a situation where there was a little bit more empowerment for musicians. New York is a place where a musician can really take their life into their own hands.”
While in The Big Apple, Roseman began to perform with fellow Conservatory alum Don Byron, with whom he formed a group that also included pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman. “I had that young and available look and Don responded to that,” Roseman explains. “I met Uri and Mark in his Klezmer band.”
Having worked his way through BeBop, Straight Ahead Jazz and even Klezmer, Roseman continued to experiment and expand his musical horizons as a member of the Giant Step collaborative. “We became the house band for these weekly artistic collaborations that included musicians, Rap artists and DJs,” Roseman explains. “Eventually, we decided to form a real group from it.”
Groove Collective was soon signed to Warner Bros. Records and began touring all over, spreading the gospel of America¹s greatest artistic creation around the world.
“It was a great ride,” Roseman says.
After some time performing with the likes of Medeski, Martin and Wood, The Roots, Me¹Shell NdegeOcello, and Soulive, Roseman formed the Josh Roseman Unit, which released their critically-acclaimed recording, “Cherry” (Knitting Factory / Velour) in 2001. This past year, JRU released a second CD, “Treats for the Nightwalker” (Enja / Justin Time). And though this collection of original compositions is barely out of the studio, Roseman is already working on his next album, among other projects.
“I am also preparing for JRU¹s first European tour, composing a commissioned piece for Joshua Redmond¹s San Francisco Modern Jazz Octet, and working on a solo tribute project to some of the Ska greats from Jamaica,” Roseman says, citing another branch of what he calls his “musical bloodline.” Despite these myriad undertakings, Roseman still has his musical vision firmly in mind, and that vision has led him to begin work on a new acoustic Jazz album that will demonstrate the power of the horn in all its unadorned beauty.
“I have always tried to bring acoustic sensibility to electric music and vice versa,” Roseman explains,” but this project is especially important to me because it will allow me to focus on the legacy of the instrument, which is where it all begins.”
© 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR