Dee Dee McNeil was kind enough to contact me to do an interview for the Mission Viejo Patch. The Saddleback Jazz Faculty had an upcoming concert (Aug 29) and the intention was that this interview would help promote it. Click here to read the published interview at the Patch.
Here’s the unedited interview, which is a bit longer.
Mission Viejo Patch: In 1996 you were selected to be an international jazz ambassador by the United States Information Agency and you toured Asia and the Middle East as part of a duo. Who was the other part of that duo? What countries did you visit? How were you received in those international appearances? How did those performances impact you?
Jamie Rosenn: In 1996, Art Hirahara (a great pianist now living in NY who I went to CalArts with) and I were chosen from a nationwide pool to be part of the Jazz Ambassador program through the United States Information
Agency. We visited Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in the Middle East and Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal in Southern Asia. Our concerts were attended by a widely varied audience of ambassadors, ex-patriots, students, local music fans, local musicians, etc. For the most part we were received very well. Even in Kuwait, where there was a protest around our appearance on the grounds that American music would corrupt their Islamic values, it turned out to be great advertising and the concert was a huge success. Many of the local music fans were unfamiliar with jazz but very polite and interested. Often we would jam with local musicians, which was always fascinating. Trying to find common ground in each others music was challenging but rewarding. The experience was tremendously eye opening for me. It demonstrated how music can be used to unite cultures that are very different.
Patch: I know you recorded a cd as part of an organ trio. What advice can you give interested guitar players about playing as part of an organ ensemble? What’s the meaning of the title of this Organ trio CD, “Points
Rosenn: I’ve been playing with the fantastic organ and piano player Joe Bagg since the late 90’s. We have a trio with the drummer Mark Ferber called Option 3 and recorded a CD a few years ago called “Points Subtracted” (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/option3) referring to a hypothetical point system that related to staying in the good graces of our loved ones. Organ and guitar have similar sonorities and blend together very nicely. Generally the organ plays the role that bass and piano would play normally (playing bass-lines and accompanying the soloist). When the organ solos the guitarist accompanies the organ. So it’s a very interactive experience and my advice to guitarists would be the same as in any other instrumentation; use your ears!
Patch: I read that you originally came from the East Coast to California. What do you see as the difference between East Coast Jazz and West Coast Jazz, if any?
Rosenn: Any style of playing that is found on the East Coast can be found on the West Coast in varying degrees. Having said that though, I have found Boston and New York to be more open to experimentation and individuality.
Patch: Are you the first in your family to pursue music as a career or are other members of your family musically inclined?
Rosenn: My father is a psychiatrist and my mother is a psychologist and neither were musically inclined. However they were very supportive of me musically and never discouraged me from pursuing it as a career. My younger sister is involved in painting and art education and is a talented singer and my younger brother is a documentary director-editor/ blues-funk guitarist (www.gaberosenn.com).
Patch: How did you get interested in performing jazz?
Rosenn: I started playing guitar at about age 12 and got a subscription to Guitar Player Magazine. At the time the magazine covered very diverse genres of music and I soaked it up and investigated as much music as I could. I eventually gravitated towards jazz and when I was about 15 started playing in an ensemble at a local musical school in Weston, MA (much like the ensembles I teach at Saddleback now). After experiencing first hand how fun it was I was hooked!
Patch: What inspires you to compose music? Have other artists recorded
Rosenn: My compositional process is widely varied. Sometimes I start with a title and see what musical images it conjures. Other times I start with a melodic or harmonic fragment and go from there. Sometimes I think about the players or instrumentation of a group I’m playing will inspire me to compose. Generally, the music I write is performed in groups that I lead or co-lead but Alan Ferber arranged and recorded by tune “Yore” on his album “Playground”(http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/alanferberseptet).
Patch: I like the nice open sound that you have on the newest Joe Less Shoe album with only you, saxophone and drums. Why no bass player?
Rosenn: Thank you! “Outsole” is our second album (http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/JoelessShoe) and we have a lot of fun in the bass-less environment. We don’t use a bassist in JoE-LeSs shOe because it makes us think and play differently and challenges us to listen and interact in a more unorthodox way. We all love playing with bass players but in this particular group, as my teacher Jimmy Giuffre use to say, “less is more”!
Patch: What are the rewards and/or drawbacks of teaching?
Rosenn: Teaching has changed my lifestyle so that I can pick and choose the gigs that are more rewarding to me musically than before I taught. It’s also great to interact with students who are excited about learning music and exchange ideas with them. Having to explain what has become automatic to me often provides different perspectives that revitalizes my practicing. I can benefit from it as much as them. The drawbacks are that it can tire me out. I teach at Saddleback, Cypress College, Musician’s Institute and Los Angeles Music Academy, so it can
get pretty busy.
Patch: Tell me about the title “joE leSs shOe”. What’s behind that title and those Caps?
Rosenn: We decided on our name because Jason Harnell, Matt Otto and myself all had separate bands with Joe Bagg so this band was “Joe-less”. The caps just naturally evolved over time and somewhere along the way stabilized.
Patch: What’s in store for you in the future and what projects are you currently working on?
Rosenn: My main projects are with Option 3, JoE-LeSs shOe and a third group called Sigmund Fudge with Joe Bagg on electric piano, Ryan McGillicuddy on bass and Jason Harnell on drums. Sigmund Fudge is due to record very soon. People can keep track of my gigs, CD’s and projects at www.jamierosenn.com.
Patch: Any words from the wise for young musicians?
Rosenn: My advice would be to keep and open mind and listen to a lot of music. Pay attention to what really impresses you and see if you can figure out why. Also spend some time imagining what you would sound like if you could play at the level you would like to eventually get to. What does it sound like? Keep whittling away, defining that sound in your head and you’ll have a clearer picture of what you need to do to achieve it.