In her 20s, Vancouver's Renee Rosnes received a Canada Council of the Arts grant to study jazz in the U.S. High-profile artists such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson (to name a few) gave her high-powered support. Blue Note Records signed and kept her on the label for more than a decade. She was a regular member of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and then a founding member of the SF Jazz Collective from San Francisco. And, on this JazzSet, Rosnes leads her quartet in New York at the world-famous Village Vanguard — where, she says, "I can turn to my left" and right, and over her shoulder, "and see the face of a jazz fan sitting a few feet away from me."
Rosnes' first turn here was in saxophonist Henderson's all-woman rhythm section, with Marlene Rosenberg on bass and Sylvia Cuenca on drums. Throughout the week, "a horde of [my piano] heroes" came down the stairs to see Henderson's new band, and Rosnes had to show grace under pressure. She's good at that.
As the leader and composer for her group, Rosnes favors the pretty combination of piano and vibes, and writes for it. Vibraphonist Steve Nelson "can throw the blues into everything. [...] The ideas he comes up with make me laugh, make all of us laugh." Bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash have played with Rosnes for a long time; they're a tight group.
From the awning to the door, the banquettes, the walls, the velvet curtain and, on this occasion, the opening tune ("Rouge"), red is the key color at the Vanguard. John Lewis wrote "Rouge" for the Miles Davis album Birth of the Cool. The group moves through Milton Nascimento's "Bridges," a piece from Rosnes' great album, Ancestors, and then one for Bill Evans, who used to play here often. He died 30 years ago the night of this set, Sept. 15, 2010. Rosnes remembers that the audience at this second set really listens, inspiring her always-fluid melody-playing and the spin she can achieve in her solos.
This program was originally broadcast April 14, 2011, on JazzSet. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster were unfolding in Japan. Rosnes comments on her concern for the Japanese people, who are a long-time, steadfast and knowledgeable audience for jazz. They "make comments that let you know they know your work," she says.
Rhonda Hamilton guest-hosts this edition. Recording and Surround Sound remix by Duke Markos.