This strange last year has been a time of reflection and contemplation for many of us, cut off from the people and the things that we love. Pianist and composer Renee Rosnes has emerged with a reinvigorated appreciation for the many different shapes that love can take. Her breathtaking new recording, Kinds of Love, is both a celebration of and a meditation on the myriad forms it’s taken in her own life – romantic love, love of family, of nature, of the arts and of close relationships she’s forged with many of her fellow musicians (including the critically acclaimed ARTEMIS, the international all-star group of which Rosnes serves as musical director).
Due out September 3 via Smoke Sessions Records, Kinds of Love is in itself a manifestation of a few of those ideas. The staggering all-star quintet that Rosnes assembled for the occasion – saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Carl Allen, and percussionist Rogério Boccato – represent a deep web of friendships and collaborations stretching back decades in some cases. And for many of them, the recording date marked one of their first times back in a studio after the long dry spell of 2020. Rosnes seized the opportunity to craft a full album’s worth of new compositions, conceived with these particular voices, and their singular combination, in mind.
“I’ve tried to look at the pandemic as a gift of time, and the knowledge that I would soon be recording with my friends inspired much of the music,” Rosnes says. “It was thrilling to experience the humanity of making music again in the moment. Each of these musicians are profound, humble virtuosos and, on a human level, enlightened spirits.”
For Rosnes, Potter and McBride, Kinds of Love is a reunion of sorts; the three last recorded together on Rosnes’ acclaimed 1997 Blue Note release As We Are Now. The new album marks Potter’s fifth recording with Rosnes, including 1995’s Ancestors, Life on Earth (2002), and the 2018 Smoke Sessions release Beloved of the Sky. While she’s performed with Allen many times over the years, she was thrilled to have him join her on this project. Boccato is the pianist’s most recent acquaintance, a meeting facilitated by their shared experience with the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene.
“We are longtime friends who share a lot of history and camaraderie,” Rosnes says. “Having an unusual amount of quietude to work kept me creatively motivated during the past year. As I composed, I thought about each musician’s essence, and was truly inspired by all the possibilities.”
The love of family and the finer things are showcased on the album’s vibrant cover photo. Rosnes is seated on a raffia-upholstered club chair created by her nephew Aaron Aujla, the celebrated designer and co- founder of Green River Project. She’s also wearing a one-of-a-kind garment made from antique textiles, created by the award-winning Menswear designer and founder of BODE, Emily Adams Bode, who is Aaron’s fiancée.
The respect and love that these five musicians feel for one another and for the act of making music together is abundantly, joyously clear throughout Kinds of Love; just witness the boisterous groove laid down by McBride, Allen and Boccato on the fervid opener, “Silk,” or the playful back-and-forth between Rosnes and Potter on “The Golden Triangle.” The latter was named in honor of the Village Vanguard, whose iconic stage has seen its fair share of such vivid interplay.
“Silk” is a dedication to the pianist and composer Donald Brown, with whom Allen worked for a number of years. Rosnes’ longstanding fondness for Brown’s work is evident in the fact that she recorded his piece “Playground for the Birds” on her 1990 self-titled leader debut. “Donald’s music is extremely lyrical and harmonically complex but at the heart of it is always the dance of the drums,” Rosnes points out. “Carl, Christian and Rogério’s hookup drove the band from beginning to end.”
But fittingly given the album’s title, that infectious exuberance is far from the only mood explored on this rich album. The past year has also brought troubling aspects of modern life into stark relief, and Rosnes has spent her fair share of time pondering those unresolved issues. The fact that many of them are deeply rooted in people’s inability to recognize, honor or respect other kinds of love influenced her as well.
The title track aches with a fragile beauty illuminated by Allen’s cloud-like brushes and Boccato’s shimmering percussive touches; “Evermore,” which began as an improvisation on a Bach Sarabande, is an elegiac, graceful ballad as intimate as a silent prayer.
Passionately introduced by Boccato’s deft percussion, “Life Does Not Wait (A Vida Não Espera)” ponders the fleeting nature of life with an elegant pas de deux between Rosnes’ piano and Potter’s flute. And “Blessings in a Year of Exile” tenderly expresses the gratitude for what we have in light of the things so many have lost.
Love of nature has been a key element in much of Rosnes’ music, and the pandemic afforded her the opportunity to reaffirm her reverence for the flora and fauna surrounding her home. “In Time Like Air” is one result, inspired by the song of a persistent yet stubbornly unidentifiable bird that became a frequent visitor to her backyard. The Brazilian-hued piece also marks the first time that Rosnes has recorded on Fender Rhodes and on vocals, as she intones the wordless melody with Boccato.
“Passing Jupiter” moves from the earthbound to the cosmic, launching off from a phrase that Lester Young played on his 1957 Newport Jazz Festival performance of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” The celebratory mood returns on “Swoop,” with musical ideas bandied back and forth between the players like a bouncing ball. “It was a great feeling to be able to make music in the moment again,” describes Rosnes. “I think this recording reflects an explosion of creativity. You can feel the energy of our connectedness, and I think maybe there was an extra spark of love in the music too.”
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- Renee Rosnes | “Kinds of Love” | Available September 3 via Smoke Sessions Records - On Her Upcoming Album, Kinds of Love, Pianist and Composer Renee Rosnes Honors and Celebrates Love Through Nine Brilliant New Compositions The Recording Features a Stunning All-Star Band with Some of Her Favorite Collaborators, Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Carl Allen and Rogério Boccato Kinds of Love is Set for Release September 3 on Smoke Sessions Records …
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