Renee Rosnes was born in that renowned incubator of jazz pianists, Regina,
Saskatchewan, and now takes a rightful place as one of the best on her instrument
of our time. She was classically trained (piano at 3, violin at 5), and
was recruited into jazz by her high school music teacher Bob Rebagliati
- an old story - how many of us found what we wanted to do in just that
way? She worked in the Vancouver jazz scene until 1985, when she came to
New York. She has played and recorded extensively with horn players - she
says that she hears tunes as she composes not as played on the piano, but
by trumpets or saxophones. She has many recordings with the likes of Wayne
Shorter, Joe Henderson, and J. J. Johnson, and continues these days as a
frequent collaborator with Chris Potter and many others of the day's best.
She also has been the pianist in many large bands - the Carnegie Hall Jazz
Band and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra among them. Her most recent Blue
Note recording (she has nine!) was with the Danish Radio Big Band (DRBB)
and features five of her works. At the same time, she plays extensively
in small groups, including "The Drummonds," a trio that includes
her husband, drummer Billy Drummond, and bassist Ray Drummond. Both Billy
and Ray have told me that they have looked hard for a connection, but apparently
they are unrelated. We get 2/3 of "The Drummonds" in December.
"No rhythmic inflection went unexplored, harmonies within a tune kept changing,...she's a virtuoso, but a quiet one."
Peter Watrous, New York Times
In March of 2004, Joshua Redman's San Francisco Jazz Collective launched a repertory band with Ms. Rosnes as the pianist. The collective is designed to workshop and perform new and newly arranged compositions, and has recently released a three-CD set featuring originals and the work of Ornette Coleman. Her recordings have won many awards here and in her native Canada, where she has three "Junos" - best record of the year in Canada.As I mentioned, she has zillions of recordings, and I'll just pick a few here that I like a lot. I'll not include the DRBB disk, because I haven't heard it - it got good reviews though - and, to be honest, her most recent CD, "Life on Earth" is just a tad too world music-like for my taste:
"She offers exquisite balances of delicacy and power, witty and weighted ideas, assertiveness and deference."
"Art and Soul," Blue Note, 1999, 7243 99997 2 5 is a wonderful, straight ahead trio disk (mostly - there are a couple of guest appearances by Dianne Reeves and Richard Bona). I think the opening track, Blues Connotation, is especially good.
"For the Moment," Blue Note, 1990, B2 7777 94859 2 5. A quintet date with Joe Henderson, the excellent Steve Wilson, Ira Coleman, and Billy Drummond.
"Friends Forever," Milestone, 1997, MCD9269-2. She's not the leader on this trio disk, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen is, but she plays really well, and the presence of the great Danish bassist is a real plus. I didn't know the drummer, Jonas Johansen, before, but he plays exceptionally here. Great disk.
"When You Wish Upon a Star," [The Drummonds], 32 Jazz, 2000, 32204.
You can hear her November 16-21 at the Village Vanguard, where she leads a great quartet with Walt Weiskopf, John Patitucci, and Victor Lewis.
Like Renee Rosnes, Ray Drummond started early - he was a trumpeter at 8, and a bassist only at the advanced age of 14. He plays as a leader and sideman with everyone, and is a "first call" bassist these days. No surprise: he has a wonderful deep tone, impeccable time, and an always interesting imagination.
He's also a teacher, and has been resident artist at the Monterey Jazz
Festival, Lafayette College, the Stanford Jazz Workshop and many other places.
His work embraces big bands - he was the bassist in the great Thad Jones/Mel
Lewis band - and small groups. I mentioned "The Drummonds" trio
above, and he is a long time associate of Kenny Barron in a trio that usually
includes Ben Riley on drums. In 2001 this group performed a legendary week's
gig at Iridium during which they never repeated a tune. This trio was caught
brilliantly in 1996 on "Live at Bradley's" (see below).
"That dark voice, ponderous,yet strangely articulate, tells stories with a dignity and poignancy that no horn can touch."
Thomas Conrad, Stereophile
His own groups, among them "Excursion" (see below), always
present his own work, which is unfailing unusual and provocative. Hear,
for example, "Excursion, a Suite in 5 Parts" on the CD "Excursion,"
or "Ballade Poetique #1" on "Vignettes," a CD that features
five Drummond originals - and Renee Rosnes on piano. I also recommend two
collaborations with pianist John Hicks, a connection that goes back to their
association in the Betty Carter trio in 1978 (Betty Carter University, again!).
I especially like the duo disk "Two of a Kind."
It is hard to pick just a few of this excellent and prolific bassist's
CDs, but here are some - there are many, many others. Try them - I promise
you will not be disappointed.
"Two of a Kind," John Hicks and Ray Drummond, Evidence, 1992, ECD 22017.
"Lover Man," John Hicks, Victor Lewis, and Ray Drummond, Red Barron,1996, JK 53748.
"Vignettes," Ray Drummond as leader with Gary Bartz, Chris Potter, Billy Hart, and Renee Rosnes, Arabesque,1996, AJ0122.
"Excursion," Ray Drummond as leader with Joe Lovano, Craig Handy, Danilo Perez, "Smitty" Smith, and Mor Thiam, Arabesque,1993, AJ 0106.
"Live at Bradley's," Kenny Barron Trio with Drummond and Ben Riley, Gitanes, 2000, 549 099-2.