Of all the leading saxophones of today's jazz, people will think naturally about Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, but Simon Rose should be on this list too, not because of his influence or renown, but simply because of the quality of his playing. His baritone has this wonderful warm, round and deeply emotional sound, that is equally intense when playing with power or quietly. And apart from his tone, he is a true creative artist, a writer of sonic stories that capture the attention and don't let it go.
Both albums show a different face of Simon Rose and his art. The first one is epic and grand, the second is poetic and intimate, and both are of very high quality, and easy to recommend.
Simon Rose & Steve Noble - North Sea Night (Not Two, 2019) ****½
On North Sea Night, we get a duo performance with his compatriot Steve Noble, recorded in 2018 at the Jazz North East festival in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Both musicians have performed and released albums together over the years, in various line-ups, including in the trio Badlands with Simon Fell on bass, and their collaboration is almost symbiotic, to use a cliché.
The first track is half an hour long, and it is actually massive, even if performed by only two musicians. Some moments are full of thundering violence, with deep plaintive howls, alternated with more delicate and sensitive voices. Noble gets a long solo moment, and it's captivating, full of joy, both technically and musically. Then Rose gets his long solo moment, again it's raw, deeply emotional, strong and impressive. This is free improvisation at its best: in the moment, immediate, direct, rich and unpredictable, without fringes or needless embellishments. They manage to keep the intensity going, even in the quieter moments, and they manage to keep the inherent lyricism of their music, even in the most energetic moments. Strong!
This is a great performance, even grand, lifting music to a very high level. There is a level of purity and authenticity to it that resonates with your humble servant. We can thank Not Two to have released it, especially because both musicians are under-released. It's ferocious, sensitive and smart.
Don't miss it!
PS: Simon Rose now lives in Berlin. He's not the traveller like the other saxophonists mentioned in the first paragraph, so it may be worth a trip to Berlin to see and hear him perform.
Simon Rose & Philippe Lemoine – Séance (Tour De Bras, 2018) ****
In contrast to the duo with Noble, we get twelve relatively short pieces, each around three minute long - like hit singles - which each on their own develop a musical short story. In contrast with the live performance with Noble, the overall tone is calmer and more subdued, even if that does not result in less adventurous or intense music. Both saxes use all their repertoire of instrumental techniques, such as timbral innovations, circular breathing in combination with improvisational inventiveness to create a wonderful dialogue of intertwining sounds.
The overall tone is incredibly warm, and the listener gets engulfed by this beautiful and strange summer breeze. There is no violence or sense of urgency, just the quiet and gentle embrace between two flows of sound, circling, merging, touching, very focused on each other. It's a dialogue which the listener is somehow part of, a privileged onlooker and inactive participant.
The meeting is one of a merging of European cultures, its common history and topography, and the title itself refers to the different meanings of "scéance" in French and English: in French it's just a happening, in English getting in contact with the dead. According to Rose in the liner notes: "Seance signifies something otherworldly, extra-sensory and at the same time an everyday musical encounter".
Be part of it.
Listen and download from Bandcamp.
PS. One last comment. It is telling that British and French creative musicians need music labels from Poland and Canada to publish their music.