Regardless of style, the rest of the band would slowly lay down the groove in each song, and then a solo would be taken over top of that. Sometime it made perfect sense while other times it left you confused and made you think about what they were trying to accomplish. Within the rhythm section itself, their was magnificent jams and on going musical conversation. The entire evening had overtones of the Bitches Brew (Miles Davis) and The Grand Wazoo (Frank Zappa) era.
Most of the evening centered around Josh Roseman on trombone, playing against the rhythm section. His ability to weave through them created a magnificent bond between the two elements in the music. At times, it was a beautiful clash. When the rhythm section pulled out their freakiness, Josh might counter that with a big band style. And when they rhythm section played sit down dinner club jazz, Josh might pull out pure freakiness.
After the Henflings show (5.17), Larry Narachi wrote, "This guy is such a pro with an unmistakable warm, round and strong clean trombone sound." He went on to explain, "Josh is really strong and his articulation was spot on - not one note sounded bad, even the double tongued upper register notes, which usually sound like 'a slide trombone' - he made it all sing. Plus he had this attitude of confidence and taking the music seriously that sort of demanded."
At the Elbo Room (5/11), the rhythm section featured East Bay native Deszon X Claiborne (Groove Collective) on drums, Barney McAll (Groove Collective) on keyboards, and Patrice Blanchard, from Martinique, on bass. The West Coast run also featured Bay Area super star Will Bernard (Motherbug) on rhythm and lead guitar.
This show was the type of show you knew was going to be big as they slowly took their time with the introduction section of the first song, like they were preparing for lift off. Will Bernard took solo’s pitted against the rhythm section, while other times being apart of the rhythm section. Bernard did an excellent job of metamorphosing into his surroundings when playing rhythm. It was very entertaining in his choices of how to blend in with the band.
At the Boom Boom Room (5/15), the band played one set on a nice double bill with Bitches Brew, a local Miles Davis inspired band. This show also featured hometown boy Peter Apfelbaum (Trey Anastasio Band, The Hieroglyphics Ensemble) on saxophone, flute, and keyboard. Peter blended perfectly with the band, playing mainly note-for-note in fast style. He took a few solos where he constantly noodled to make up a greater melody and theme, similar to how one would play different parts on the piano with your left and right hand. His solos went to there and back, leaving everyone in the audience breathless. When Apfelbaum was not fighting the rhythm section, he joined them by playing keyboards and adding to the greater collective.
Will Bernard had another extraordinary night at the Boom Boom Room. He took a monumental solo on slide guitar that brought the house down. He worked the theme back and fourth really showcasing his ability to take a solo on a theme and slowly rip it apart. Bernard always has something interesting to say, and uses multiple styles to get across his feelings and emotions.
The Henflings and Starry Plough (5/16) shows also featured Bay Area native Scott Amendola on drums. Narachi described one song at Heflings, "It was a trance-like bass and drums groove - somewhat sparse with soundscapes layered over and over to make an infectious sensual groove...then Will Bernard slinged a killer solo just to add to the Stew."
The JRU rhythm section worked as a unit to collectively improvise on both composed and free form songs. They were locked together all night long, and showed many overtones of the current electronica meets jam scene. Claiborne was magnificent, holding down the rhythm and often playing eighths and sixteenths. McAll was melodic and added to the feel of the music with distorted piano sounds and sample. Other times he would just pound away in a fast rhythmic fashion. Patrice was smooth and deep as he floated through the songs. At times, he pulled out a vibrating sound reminiscent of Chicago deep house.
JRU did some interesting covers as well. Timothy Lynch reported after the Starry Plough, "Lots of improvisation, more than a little Bitches Brew era flavor, and even a deconstructed Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach tune or two." Narachi also commented after Henflings, "We got a Nirvana cover of Smells like Teen Spirit with a Sun Ra-esque musical interpretation. But the guitar, bass and drums rocked as hard as you needed to pull that tune off."
The reviews are in all and the verdict is multiple thumbs up. Josh Roseman Unit is one of the brightest young acts out there today, pushing the boundaries of music in a focused and thoughtful manner. They took chances and kept things interesting, while also making sure they didn’t lose their audience along the way. If this is your brand of wackiness, be sure to check them out when they come to your town.
The JRU has released an album titled Cherry, featuring the late Lester Bowie on Trumpet, John Medeski on keyboards, Dave Fiuczynski on guitar, Bob Stewart covering the low end, and Joey Baron on drums. Roseman is also a frequent guest with Soulive, and played as a member of the Soulive Horns on their most recent 3-act tour.
JRU played the following NorCal dates:
May 10th - Fairfax - 19 Broadway
May 11th - San Francisco - Elbo Room
May 15th - San Francisco - Boom Boom Room
May 16th - Berkeley - Starry Plough
May 17th - Ben Lemond/Santa Cruz- Henflings
May 18th - San Jose-Agenda