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Interview With Renee Rosnes


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The Personal Touch






Over the past 15 years, Vancouver-native Renee Rosnes has continued to develop her impressive skills as both a pianist and composer on the international stage. Having moved to New York in the mid-80s, she quickly established herself as a first-call accompanist working in the bands of Joe





Henderson and J.J. Johnson while also developing her own units. Now considered one of the leading voices in the current crop of contemporary jazz musicians, Rosnes has recorded with a who's who of the jazz community including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis and Bobby Hutcherson, and has had pieces commissioned by Wynton Marsalis for Jazz At Lincoln Center. She is currently celebrating the release of her latest Blue Note recording, Art & Soul.






Bill King: There are musicians whose playing is derivative and those who possess an original voice. You seem to have created a sound and dialect all your own. What flows through your mind when your hands touch the keyboard?


Renee Rosnes: When I begin to play, I try to go within myself, relax and let the music come through. I think that when any musician thinks too much, it hinders the music. Whether recording or performing, the main thing for me to do is just let the music happen.


B.K.: What I find intriguing about your playing is how selective you are at choosing notes. There are no repetitious scale patterns or gimmicks. Do you purposely avoid cliches?


R.R.: Well, I try to, but it doesn't always work. I try to maintain a fresh approach without placing expectations on how a tune is going to go when I begin playing it. That's when I come up with the freshest performance.


B.K.: I had a wonderful conversation with Don Thompson the other night about various piano players and the subject of your playing came up. He agreed with me that there is clarity and purpose in everything you play.


R.R.: That's a tremendous compliment because that's my goal. To be able to sit down and sound like yourself is every jazz musician's goal. I obviously have a lot of influences and I certainly know in my own playing how they come out from night to night. Hopefully, I've reached a point where I'm not so concerned with trying to sound like anyone but myself. To hear someone say that they hear clarity and a personal touch is great.


B.K.: How does one arrive at a sound after years of assimilating all that has come before?


R.R.: That's a good question. It's hard to say exactly. For myself, it's been through a lot of practising, making choices of what I like in other people's playing - what I've chosen to incorporate into my own playing and what I've chosen to exclude. We all have our own experiences, musically and otherwise, and that creates the sum of who you are. I've been influenced by a lot of bandstand experience with people like Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. It's an individual thing from musician to musician. Even when one arrives at that point, it's still an individual process.

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