Review by John McBeath
4 1/2 stars
Sydney saxophonist Jeremy Rose has been working with the musicians on his latest album for the past ten years, and these six lengthy pieces were developed over a two year period, but Rose is also very active in a variety of other groups: The Vampires, The Strides, Compass Quartet, Cameron Undy’s 20th Century Dog, Ensemble Offspring, and Earshift Orchestra. Amongst numerous achievements Rose has scored a Bell Award, and this year won an APRA AMCOS Professional Development Award worth $15,000.
The title track is a good introduction to the collection of originals, with Jackson Harrison’s opening piano flourishes and the delectable upright bass notes of Alex Boneham – who’s since relocated to Los Angeles – ahead of one of several themes stated by Rose’s soprano sax with rhythmic punctuation from drummer James Waples. All of this serves as a build-up intro for Rose’s lift-off solo of swirling excitement aided by Harrison’s substructural chord stabs, before a curling piano solo travels on with ceaseless invention.
Guitarist Carl Morgan is a guest artist on two tracks including The Long Way Home, a slow ballad that wanders expressively adding rhythmic accents for appropriate solos from alto and guitar. Mind Over Matter is a soft post-bop tribute to the late altoist David Ades, ‘a mentor, friend and fellow surfer’ for Rose.
Rose explains that the music uses improvised sections that build from the notated material, ‘creating a blurred line between improvisation and composition’, and he has assembled a group of players perfectly capable of understanding and interpreting these elegant works.
Review by Samuel Cottell
This latest release from saxophonist and composer Jeremy Rose contains six tracks, features long form compositions and the line between notated score and improvisation is inherently blurred, which makes for some interesting listening. Each of the tracks has a poignant meaning to them and there are even political overtones to some.
Jeremy Rose is making his distinct mark on the jazz scene, but not just locally. He has had international success as well, regularly touring Europe with one of his groups, the Vampires. This latest recording demonstrates Rose at his best and perhaps marks a watershed moment in his composing and jazz career. Rose’s jazz writing is on par with the top American exponents of the craft. His tunes, often featuring unexpected harmonic twists and turns, remain melodic and I even found myself humming some of these melodies after the first hearing.
There is wide variety in the scope of this album and at many times wonderful colours and textures are created. ‘Hegemony’ (a nod to the American domination of the cultural diet in Australia) features a sparkling percussion element from James Waples, setting a sandpaper-like texture over which Rose plays fragment melodies in the lower register of the saxophone. Here, Jackson Harrison on piano plays chords that have an ephemeral, eerie quality to them. They move in and out of various harmonic realms as Rose bends pitch and shines, showing quiet restraint through a softer volume.
Rose’s writing is melodious, textured and considered. His distinct compositional voice is further enhance by his mastery of both the alto and soprano saxophones. He is able to bring to life the full range of the instruments and is adept in every register, making exciting runs and leaps from low to high notes and vice versa. There are also moments of tender treatment of the melody.
Guitarist Carl Morgan appears as a guest artist on ‘Precipice’ and ‘Long Way Home’, adding a varied texture to the quartet. Here, Morgan presents an accompaniment role in the first chorus, a gentle arpeggio pattern over which Rose gently weaves his melodies. Morgan’s solo, later in the piece, provides episodic fragments that take their ideas from the initial theme of the tune and he smartly explores interesting harmonic and melodic patterns, driving the piece forward and in new directions.
Rose writes in the liner notes: “The lines are blurred between notated music and improvisation and it is transition moments that make the music powerful, swinging and engaging”. The group transitions between these structured and improvised sections with relative ease and it heightens the excitement in the music. This ensemble’s playing combined with Rose’s composing forms a true jazz unit – swinging, playing blues notes at times and using riffs and grooves on which to launch their own improvisations. The ensemble is in top form for the whole recording and not only do they play some crackerjack solos they also enhance, support and direct each other. There is some true communication going on here.
The track ‘Mind over Matter’ dedicated to Dave Ades (who was a mentor and fellow surfer to Rose) features some virtuosic playing and a distinct shape before there are moments of free improvisation amongst the group. It’s all held together by a tasty groove the anchors the tune and provides a platform over which to solo.
Many of the tunes swing; boy do they swing. Rose’s solos, particularly on ‘Sand Lines’, are precision plus – they blur the bar line extending the form of the piece and elevating it on each pass of the chord change. Harrison’s comping on this track is both laid back at times and other times driving and propelling the melodic content forward, as though gently nudging Rose in a new melodic idea.
The final track on the album ‘Debt Spiral’ takes its departure from the statement made by Joe Hockey (considered by some to be Australia’s worst treasurer to date) when he said: “Poor people don’t drive cars”. Coincidently, Rose claims he was almost run over by Joe Hockey in his 4WD. This track starts out with a lone saxophone lamenting over some blues notes and ascending sequences over the range of the saxophone before the band enters, hitting chords before launching into a swinging section. Alex Boneham’s insistent bass propels this tune forwards and sends it down all kind of cool streets as Waples provides a glorious shimmer that develops and further enhances the spikey rhythms.
There is a tongue-in-cheek quality to this piece and you can almost picture a stand-off between Jeremy Rose and Joe Hockey.
The longer form pieces on the album allow the musicians to explore, in further detail, extended ideas that stem from Rose’s compositions. The most successful element of the recording as a whole is the interplay and communication of the group. Their interactions are, at all times, highly engaging and their solos are a collective conversation, rather than the more ‘traditional’ idea of one person taking a solo at a time and being supported by the other players. With each featured solo, the rest of the group interjects and further enhances the solo, leading into new directions rhythmically, harmonically and melodically.
The recording is exceptionally mastered and a superb balancing act on the part of Ross A’Hearn means that nuance and detail is deftly heard and explored, particularly when listened to on some high quality speakers or headphones. The packaging and design by Pat Harris highly detailed and the photograph by Mikael Wardhana captures a stunning landscape of Lake Tyrell in Victoria.
This is a finely crafted album that displays a creative approach to writing, playing and improvising. If you like a bit of old and a bit of new with some true jazz writing and playing than this is the album for you.
Review by John Hardaker
The first time I really heard altoist/composer Jeremy Rose was on a side stage at a Darling Harbour Jazz Festival (remember them?) a few years back. He was leading a lean, raw-boned quartet with – I think – trumpeter Eamon Dilworth, but I couldn’t be sure.
What I can be sure of was that I stayed for his whole set, ignoring the main stage for the duration. And, since then, I have kept an ear out for whatever Jeremy Rose is doing.
And I have always been intrigued, amazed, challenged and – to be frank – totally gassed by his restless artistic nature and his consistently questing music, both as a composer and as a soloist.
Through the bony reggae of The Strides, to the funk-Ornettey grooves of The Vampires, to the moody chamber jazz of The Compass Quartet and on to his many other projects, Rose’s pluralistic musical vision has always taken me to some interesting and strangely bejewelled places.
His latest – with his Quartet – is ‘Sand Lines’. It is a delight to hear Rose back in the arms of (almost) straight-ahead Jazz – an added delight is to hear him rocking so sweet and heavy in those arms.
Opener, the title track ‘Sand Lines’, has Rose’s silvery soprano leading over a staggered ensemble section until the band climbs into a swing section – Rose’s solo breaks into a grin that won’t stop. His soprano tone and playing has the gift that Wayne Shorter has – the ‘eastern’ nasal inflection, a joy of Trane’s sound, is replaced by a roundness and warmth, with those big-throated, round notes opening the tone at just the right points.
Pianist Jackson Harrison glitters like an heirloom diamond in his solo on the ‘Sand Lines’ track. Barefoot drummer James Waples and Rose’s fellow-Vampire, bassist Alex Boneham, push the performance with a combination of grin and sweat. The vibe set up by the energy of the ‘Sand Lines’ track sets the tone for the rest of this rich and tasty album.
Guest Carl Morgan adds his guitar to ‘The Long Way Home’ – Rose’s languid memory of childhood drives through the Australian bush – his snaking solo winding in and out of the background melody fragments.
Morgan also appears on ‘Precipice’ – the tune’s shape a perfect example of Rose’s compositional ability to blur melody and improvisation (in effect, ‘head’ and heart) into a seamless skin. Quite lovely.
‘Mind Over Matter’ is Rose’s tribute to the dear and sadly departed David Ades, his mentor, mate and fellow surf-dog. The piece dances in a joyful place, rising and falling as if buoyed by surf currents, summoning Ade’s bright life-lust in primary colours. Harrison’s solo here is particularly sharp – rhythmic play with melodic curves curving around each other in new shapes.
The album’s standout to me is ‘Hegemony’. It is a half-lit ballad that exists on the same shadow-theatre stage as Miles Davis’ ‘Blue in Green’ and shares with Miles’ and Bill Evans’ iconic piece a melodic ambiguity which the musicians build on to deep effect. Alex Boneham’s measured and lovely bass solo takes this already twilight piece into even darker waters, wading thru the indigo.
After nailing such a sharp and intense Jazz album, I am sure we will lose the restless Rose now to his next project – of indeterminant genre – but whatever it is I know I will want to be on his listeners list. Jeremy, you have my number.
Review by John Clare
The Music Trust
This disc is a third stream of his expression: a group of original pieces more obviously centred within the jazz tradition.This is, of course, something much more than a demonstration that the one time student has not forgotten all the forms and techniques learned from his teachers.
The forms here quite often depart in original ways. While it is rather more in the mainstream than the ska and reggae influences heard in The Vampires, it is often as polyrhythmic – sometimes juxtaposing and interweaving common time, as they say in the classics, with compound time(triple metre in other words) – and even at times as sun-drenced in feeling. And the jazz focus allows perhaps more licence for some high virtuosity. Sometimes Rose’s fluidity is a giddy delight, and this can be alternated with phrases of simple punch and pungency and high reaches that are fiercely “wailing” to adopt the argot of Louis Armstrong and his time which was a long time ago and lasted a very long time in fact.
The excitement generated would be less meaningful without the brilliant reflexes and empathy of the rhythm section listed above. They operate with the superb combination of looseness and precision you hear in jazz and ethnic musics. Oh, it’s very juicy and propulsive. Free yet rock steady.
Common time? These terms have become quaint. It just means in four. In this case sometimes four to the bar propulsive swing at delicious speed. So fast sometimes that you wonder how the rhythm section can time their subtle punctuations, or insert them between the units flying past.
Pianist Jackson Harrison – who has also won international recognition, is wonderfully articulate and swiftly thinking. Sometimes he chordally comps behind Rose and sometimes the two flower in free contrapuntal passages – reminding you in some ways of Dave Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Though very different in style. Two tracks are augmented by the bright electric sound and lyricism of Carl Morgan’s guitar. The similarities and contrasts of electric guitar and alto or soprano saxophone have always fascinated me (since the time of Charlie Parker in fact).
Some compositions are short ingenious or at least infectious riffs underpinning or introducing improvisation, and sometimes they move through several permutations.
This disc has already been heard overseas and well praised. I have kept playing it well beyond the time needed to write something about it.