Outside In Music
Street Date: March 25, 2022
Disparate Parts, the new album from the Roxy Coss Quintet, features familiar personnel in a brand new context: Coss on tenor and soprano saxophone, Alex Wintz on guitar, Miki Yamanaka on piano and keyboards, Rick Rosato on bass and Jimmy Macbride on drums. Known for their conversational expression, the artists approach fresh ideas with a sacred connection to their tradition-informed identity. Together, they navigate new harmony, rhythmic modulations and wildly diverse textures across 14 tracks of original music framing the impetus for the album: Coss’ four-movement suite, “The Body,” “The Mind,” “The Heart” and “The Spirit.”
Recorded by Chris Sulit at Trading 8s Studio, and mixed, mastered and associate produced by Johannes Felscher, Disparate Parts creates a kaleidoscope of sound that serves the quintet’s bold, ever-refining expression. Distinct gestures join together to form extended ideas and permutations without surrendering their respective characters. Throughout the writing process, Coss remained inspired by a steady stream of micro and macro adjustments — in her life and the lives of those around her — centered around loss, resilience and renewal. Often navigating the unknown and unexpected, she would return again and again to thoughts around our daily rituals of compartmentalizing, and sought to explore how she and her fellow artists might communicate those ideas through music.
“Everything for me goes back to being a woman in jazz [laughs],” says Coss, who also serves as album producer. “That is my identity. And, oftentimes, the different things that I do in my life are either for a certain part of me or accessing a certain part of me, and they’re not integrated. And each of these pieces of the suite are the disparate parts. As the project progressed, I went through the life changes of being pregnant and, now, being a new mom, and felt that concept manifesting itself even more so in my own life.”
Typically, Coss releases music while in the midst of working out new compositional ideas. Because of the pandemic lockdown and her pregnancy, the suite took its time to materialize; the rest of the album would follow in waves of collective inspiration. “It took me a few months to get back to the place where I was thinking about music, composition, practicing,” says Coss. After a period of rest followed by one of mourning, she sought ways to reconnect with tunes and sketches she’d begun realizing before the pandemic. “It was such a different relationship with the music because I wasn’t performing regularly. It was as though I was holding the potential of what this music represents.”
Seven months pregnant, Coss entered the studio with her trusted bandmates to record the entire suite; related originals “Mabes” and the album title track; and contributions from Wintz, Macbride and Yamanaka, a new layer of collaboration that feels integral to the direction of the band’s expression. “At this point, we all understand what the Roxy Coss Quintet sound is,” she says.
Explosive and visceral, “The Body” introduces a new sonic chamber of RCQ. Textural crunch from Wintz complements moments of playful interaction and hard swinging handoffs. “I wanted that rock sound, that heavy hitting sound,” says Coss. Conjuring a meditative awakening, “The Mind’s” first moments fold into snaky melodies and rhythmic subversions. Coss’ goal was to explore what indecision and overthinking might sound like. Coincidentally — or, perhaps, consequently — “The Mind” became her most puzzling piece to compose. “I had a really hard time figuring out the form of this tune which is not typical for me,” she says. By contrast, “The Heart” emerged intuitively: “Once I wrote it, it was written.” Tender at moments, doleful and contemplative at others, “The Heart” proffers a brief and mystifying solo from Rosato. The final movement of the suite came together as a collaborative gesture; melody serves as connective tissue on “The Spirit,” featuring Coss on soprano, lyrical and deliberate. “It’s less of a clear form,” says Coss, “we didn’t delineate between soloists.”
Enhancing conceptual impact around disparate parts, Coss sought to honor the nature of her quintet. “We’re very different people,” she says, “but we have come together to form a band with an identifiable sound.” Not surprisingly, the title track revealed itself in pieces and layers. Coss sat at the piano with what she initially believed to be sketches of four different tunes: “Then I began thinking, ‘I think they all might be one tune.’” Moving in and out of sections and elemental choices, the through-composed form lends itself to each quintet member’s artistic tendencies. “We move through each person taking the lead, and the sections are dictated by their different personalities,” she says.
Wintz’s “Ely, MN” presents an energetic challenge the artists rise to meet. “It’s the perfect fit [for the band] in terms of vibe,” says Coss, “and it’s really fun to play on.” Wintz stretches colorful melodies across rugged harmonic terrain before Coss and Yamanaka respond with their own lyrical twists and patterned exploration. Written for the late mentor of countless young artists, Harold Mabern, “Mabes” features a sweet and dirty rumination in 3. Yamanaka’s samba-inspired “Sunburn” serves as a vehicle for each artist to act as lead improviser. Macbride’s atmospheric “Warm One” — which spotlights the young drummer’s nuanced, reflexive touch — closes out the recorded setlist as the penultimate track before Yamanaka’s “February (take 2),” one of five short takes punctuating the album’s progression. Coss, who opted to include all five takes, views each as an interlude with its own of-the-moment feeling: “I really like where these go. It’s super representative of these disparate parts.”
The release of Disparate Parts reveals a new phase of Coss’ life and her creative expression, and puts forth layered, new concepts for her quintet to explore. “I’m still feeling this idea of having disparate parts of myself represented in different areas of my life, but it is even more prevalent now that I’m a new mom,” she says. “I’m exploring and expressing this idea through my music — especially in this particular moment.”
Outside In Music
Street Date: August 23, 2019
Roxy Coss joins the Outside In Roster with the release of her fifth album, Quintet. This exciting video project serves to rearrange and reimagine a collection of previously heard Coss-penned tunes. Rather than a “greatest hits” package, Quintet offers fans an invigorating compilation of fresh new takes on some of the stalwart’s most cherished compositions, plus one new track – the saxophonist’s arrangement of “All or Nothing At All”. These eight live recordings will each have their own individual video release. Check out the lead single “Don’t Cross the Coss”, released on May 10th here! The disc’s title indeed has a double meaning, as although it marks Coss’ fifth album as a leader, it also notes her favorite type of small jazz ensemble. Quintet is brought to fruition by the bandleader’s formidable group which features pianist Miki Yamanaka, guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Jimmy Macbride.
Roxy Coss’ first four discs charted her evolution of becoming a modern jazz saxophonist of note. She exemplifies the true glories of a jazz musician by being both a torchbearer and an envelope-pusher. As an instrumentalist, she wields a burnished, brawny tone, capable of expressing a gamut of emotions. Her prowess on the tenor and soprano saxophones has elicited placings in DownBeat magazine’s critics’ polls in five consecutive years.
Then there’s Roxy Coss, the insightful composer. The bulk of her burgeoning discography contains fetching originals – a few of which are, as regarded by jazz journalist John Murph, bound to become early 21st-century jazz staples. All of these fine attributes reign on the aptly titled Quintet, while it offers a new celebration of sorts – Roxy Coss, the bandleader. Classic 1960s Blue Note ensembles such as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and various groups led by saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Hank Mobley provided the earlier boilerplate for the Roxy Coss Quintet, which began in 2008 – two years before she released her self-released, eponymously titled debut. After landing a residency at New York City’s jazz club Smoke, Coss reconfigured her own frontline by pairing her saxophones with guitar. At this time, Alex Wintz joined the band and the guitarist is now the Quintet member with the longest history of playing with her. The rest of the ensemble consists of drummer Jimmy Macbride, bassist Rick Rosato, and pianist Miki Yamanaka – all of whom played on Coss’ fourth, critically-acclaimed disc, The Future Is Female (Posi-Tone, 2018).
The album blasts off with “Don’t Cross The Coss”, which was first recorded on Coss’ 2016 Origin Records’ release Restless Idealism. The whimsical title plays up some people’s initial misreading of the composer’s last name! While Yamanka’s glimmering Rhodes accompaniment elevates and uplifts the disc’s sole non-original, “All or Nothing At All,” “Mr. President,” is a biting socio-political commentary on U.S. President Donald Trump. Reminiscent of Charles Mingus’ classic “Fables of Faubus”, this ominous tune originally appeared on The Future Is Female.
Brighter spirits return on the pulsating “Free to Be,” a tune from her 2017 Posi-Tone disc, Chasing the Unicorn; it’s a self-prescribed manifesto Coss penned for herself to help her push through fake barriers that nip creative energy and personal development. The sauntering, Brazilian-flavored “You’re There,” – also from Chasing the Unicorn – celebrates her marriage with saxophonist Lucas Pino. Following “Enlightenment” – a ballad which graced Coss’ 2010 debut – is “Breaking Point.” On this soaring composition, which first appeared on Restless Idealism, Coss’ soprano sax embarks on coruscating passages in twin-fashion with Wintz. Quintet concludes with another socio-political statement – the urgent “Females Are Strong As Hell,” arguably the emotional centerpiece for The Future Is Female. Indeed, it’s an anthem in light of the #metoo Movement and the fight for many female jazz musicians such as Coss to get the same recognition and performance and recording opportunities as their male counterparts. It should be noted in addition to Coss being also a respected jazz educator on the Jazz Education Network’s (JEN) board of directors and on jazz faculty at The Juilliard School, The New School, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College (a CUNY School), she’s the founder of Women in Jazz Organization.
Roxy Coss’ saxophone and compositional gifts have been without question for nearly a decade, and with Quintet her bona fides as a noteworthy bandleader have now been deftly and unquestionably established.
For Disparate Parts
"Brace for impact before playing the new single by Roxy Coss." Read Take Five here.
"..the album amplifies the quintet’s solidarity by giving voice to the vision of each member." Read the full interview here.
HOT HOUSE JAZZ
"Roxy’s tenor sax tone is as tough as galvanized pipe.." Read the review here.
"The Roxy Coss Quintet keeps evolving, delivering a spirited, wildly diverse set of tunes that bodes well for future limitless explorations." Read the complete review here.
"Roxy Coss stretches out her dimensions on this recent release.." Read the review here.
"..she’s exploring different avenues of her craft, and it makes for a highly creative version of jazz." Read the review here.
"..the bright and melodic/inside-the-lines qualities were nurtured." Read the review here.
"In the intervening years, she's shown herself to be a top shelf, hard core swinger that can be a first class leader whether politicized or not because after all is said and done, the swing is the thing." Full review here.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
"A nimble-fingered young tenor saxophonist whose career is starting to take off, Roxy Coss begins “Mr. President” in a dust cloud of frustration, painting in spirally smears over the pianist Miki Yamanaka’s dissonant pounds. But by the end of the track — one of seven originals on her new album, “Quintet” — Coss’s whole group is racing ahead, as if to outrun (or outwit, or simply out-punch) the tune’s titular adversary." Playlist feature here.
"It all makes for a completely engaging album from a saxophonist affirming her place in the jazz firmament." Read the full feature here.
" The song, which has a familiar bebop chord progression and a melody that winks at the Tristano school, has become a sort of signature for this group... As on the rest of Quintet, there’s a crackling, in-the-moment spark to the performance, and it’s captured well on film." Track feature here.
"...her full range comes out on the rapid “Females Are Strong as Hell,” where her wails get free toward the end. Moments like this, added as punctuation to her solos, leave the strongest impression and point to the variety in her style." Review here.
"And so, I thought I’d spotlight some women in jazz now who are playing exceptional music on instruments once reserved for male jazz musicians." Feature here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"If her activist voice stays as loud and boisterous as her saxophone voice, we can expect more great accomplishments and improvisational change from this talented young woman." Read the full review here.
LA JAZZ SCENE
"While her sidemen are excellent, giving her the support she needs along with some concise solos, Roxy Coss dominates her set, showing that she is one of the top up-and-coming talents on the New York jazz scene; in fact, one could argue that she is always realizing her potential." Read the full review here.
"Her playing throughout is terrific, her prowess on both tenor and soprano repeatedly shown. Much the same could be said about the outfit as a whole when Coss, pianist Miki Yamanaka, guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Rick Rosato, and drummer Jimmy Macbride roar through the tracks, their playing exemplifying urgency aplenty yet never so much that the performances lose focus or control." Read the full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Coss is not the kind of player one can identify in a phrase, because she focuses on serving the tune, but she’s a strong leader and surrounds herself with players who work well as a unit. Calling this album Quintet was the perfect choice, because throughout this 45-minute program, we’re hearing a five-headed organism at work." Review here.
"The bandleader’s reach—both as a performer and as a force for good—comes along with an abundance of round-toned assuredness, and Coss’ horn, even during some of the more tender efforts, like the midtempo “Breaking Point,” hints at future decades brimming with recordings." EDITORS PICK REVIEW here.
"Quintet sounds great – Roxy Coss uses this release to look back over her career and previous recordings while the use of her "regular" band shows she's ready to move forward with these musicians, create new music with and for them. Play it loud and let the sounds and the incredible spirit wash over and throughout you!” Read the full review here.
CHICAGO JAZZ MAGAZINE
"On her debut for the Outside In label, Coss continues to showcase her excitingly unique sound and mature style." Read the full review here.
"Coss always has drawn on well-known tunes—slotting in “Crazy” among a batch of familiar jazz fare on Chasing The Unicorn. The arrangement here is a bit jauntier than on older, vocal versions, though, with Coss turning to soprano to dash off solos amid the Latin-tinged arrangement." Premiere here.
"Her aptly-titled fifth album, Quintet, celebrates Coss’ communion with her stellar ensemble which recently received the Local 802 Musicians Union emerging artist grant. Released in conjunction with a companion video series, Quintet’s live studio recordings draw from the bandleader’s entire catalog, and are the follow-up to The Future Is Female, Coss’ provocative response to the 2016 elections." Article here.
"With the bandleader’s well-earned place in the music, jazz—the people who comprise its ranks as performers, fans and critics—is coming closer to a long-overdue understanding of what an innovative bandleader can look like."
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Quintet tells us simply that she is a fine saxophonist in the midst of a meteoric rise." Read the full 4 star review here.
NORTHWEST MUSIC SCENE
"Her new album Quintet revisits some of her self-composed tunes from her previous albums, re-thunk and re-conceptualized." Interview here.
TRAVIS ROGERS JR
THE JAZZ OWL
"Quintet is Roxy Coss’ finest album to date. Her second take on her original compositions shows her development as a Jazz artist of the top tier. This is a wonderful album of self-actualization and vision. Her playing is superb and her compositions are first-rate. She was prophetic with The Future is Female and she proves that to be true with Quintet." Review here.
"Roxy Coss is truly passionate in every endeavor she undertakes. This is an energetic, imaginative, and emotional session. Her work with guitarist Wintz creates a dynamic that’s rarely heard. One can also easily envision Yamanaka grinning from ear to ear from the sheer joy of playing. This quintet brings the full gamut from blazing fire to subtle restraint." Review here.
"Coss’ musical persona is fiercely confident and focused." Check out the full feature piece here.
"Last year’s release by saxist Roxy Coss had her addressing Women’s Social Issues. They’re still addressed here, as well as other political statements, but they don’t detract or add to the high quality of music that stands up even if all of the songs were titled after the Dodger starting lineup." Full review here.