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Clip: Scott Rosenberg

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  • Carl Zimring
    http://www.chireader.com/hitsville/020830.html By Peter Margasak August 30, 2002 Return of a Continental Drifter Even within the Chicago music scene, where a
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2002
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      http://www.chireader.com/hitsville/020830.html

      By Peter Margasak

      August 30, 2002

      Return of a Continental Drifter

      Even within the Chicago music scene, where a healthy work ethic is
      expected, reedist and composer Scott Rosenberg had a reputation as a busy,
      busy guy. He moved to Chicago in August 1999, and by early 2001 he was
      improvising with local and visiting artists, putting on concerts in a
      Ukrainian Village coach house (dubbed the Brick House), and writing music
      for and organizing three distinct groups. The 25-piece Rosenberg Creative
      Orchestra, the five-member Skronktet, and the quartet Red all made
      impressive live debuts, drawing large crowds to clubs like the HotHouse and
      the Empty Bottle and generating positive press in this paper and the
      Sun-Times.

      But just when it seemed that Rosenberg had established himself, he split.
      In the summer of 2001, he and his girlfriend at the time moved their
      possessions to New York City and embarked on a round-the-globe trip they'd
      planned nearly a year earlier. They spent about four months in Latin
      America, but the events of September 11 threw a wrench in the works. After
      a brief respite in New York, Rosenberg went alone to Europe, playing
      free-improv gigs in France, Poland, Italy, and England. To his surprise,
      the single biggest factor in whatever draw he had seemed to be his
      connection to Chicago. "[That was] the real card that wound up being played
      for me wherever I went, by whoever was promoting the show," he says. "I
      went and stayed at people's houses and their entire record collection was
      made up of Chicago bands. There's a real fetish."

      When the tour ended Rosenberg used some of the money he'd saved for the
      trip to rent an apartment in Paris, where he spent the winter writing and
      playing occasional gigs. In April he moved back to New York for real. "In
      the final moment I had a hard time deciding not to move back to Chicago,"
      he says, "but I decided to try something different."

      Still, he felt as though he had unfinished business here. In Paris he had
      composed a set of music with Chicago players in mind, and this week he's in
      town to present it for the first time. The Scott Rosenberg Chicago Big Band
      Project includes ten of the city's most promising young players, including
      bassist Jason Ajemian, drummer Tim Daisy, reedist Aram Shelton, and
      trombonist Nick Broste.

      Rosenberg says he conceived the project right after his Creative Orchestra
      gave its sole performance in March 2001. That project's dense, shifting
      textures and emphasis on sound as sound acknowledged the influence of
      composers like Anthony Braxton, with whom Rosenberg had studied as an
      undergrad at Wesleyan, and Stockhausen. But the night after that concert,
      Rosenberg says, he lay awake until 4 AM thinking about doing something
      smaller that reflected his jazz influences more directly. This initial
      impulse was only reinforced by his experiences with contemporary European
      improvisers.

      "It made me realize how much I value the American sensibility, both
      musically and extramusically," he says. "I ran into this attitude over and
      over again in Europe of people trying consciously to eradicate what they
      identified as jazz or the influence of jazz from their playing and
      approach, as though it were something cancerous to be cut out. Before I
      went to Europe I think I even occasionally had similar aspirations. It
      started to seem driven by a misguided sense of purity, a kind of negative
      absolutism, and ultimately an intentionally created separation whose only
      goal was to serve some kind of strange nationalism or continentalism, and
      in its worst manifestation, racism."

      Rosenberg hasn't decided to suddenly write swing charts, but I caught part
      of a rehearsal last week, and the influence of Chicago's Afrocentric jazz
      pioneers -- including Sun Ra and the groups affiliated with the Association
      for the Advancement of Creative Musicians -- on his new work was hard to
      miss. I'd never heard such explicitly jazzy voicings, propulsive
      counterpoint, or rhythmic soloing in his stuff before.

      Though he doesn't plan to stay much past Labor Day, Rosenberg hopes to
      maintain strong ties to Chicago. And a number of recordings made during his
      tenure here are just now seeing release. Earlier this year Cadence Jazz put
      out Red's Owe, and Rosenberg's own Barely Auditable imprint will soon
      release Six Synaptics, a trio recording with Michael Zerang and Kyle
      Bruckmann. Most impressively, next year the prestigious jazz and classical
      label New World Records will release a recording by the Creative Orchestra.

      The Chicago Big Band Project will kick off Friday's Chicago Jazz Festival
      activities with a free concert at the Cultural Center at 12:15 PM. The
      group will perform again at 8 PM on Sunday, September 1, at the Empty
      Bottle.

      Postscript

      Last Thursday at the Prodigal Son, dancehall-influenced art rockers the
      Eternals introduced a new member -- John Herndon of Tortoise and Isotope
      217. Herndon played drums on three songs and keyboards or percussion when
      founding member Dan Fliegel was behind the kit. Fliegel's leaving the band
      in anticipation of the birth of his second child in October, but Damon
      Locks says the band will probably play at least one more show with both
      drummers. The Eternals have a new five-song 12-inch, The Black Museum, on
      the local Aesthetics label; Fliegel plays on it and Herndon mixed some of
      the tracks. Another EP is due this year on the Philadelphia label Antifaz,
      and the band's sophomore full-length is due in the spring on Aesthetics.
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