Jamie Rosenn has brought jazz music to all parts of the globe. A protest against American music didn't stop him from playing Kuwait.
Rosenn is one of several faculty members who will perform Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. at the McKinney Theatre inside . The faculty is composed of Jerry Pinter on saxophone, Ron Stout on trumpet, Gerard Hagen on piano, Luther Hughes on bass, Rosenn on guitar, Paul Johnson on drums and Director of Jazz Studies on trombone.
In 1996, Rosenn, along with pianist Art Hirahara, was selected by the U.S. Information Agency to be an international jazz ambassador. I asked Jamie to tell me a little bit about that honor.
Jamie Rosenn: It turned out to be a great advertising tool, and the concert tour was a huge success. We visited Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the Middle East and Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal in southern Asia. Our concerts were attended by a widely varied audience of ambassadors, expatriates, students, local music fans and musicians. For the most part, we were very well received, even in Kuwait, where there was a protest around our appearance on the grounds that American music would corrupt their Islamic values. Many were unfamiliar with jazz but very polite and interested. Often we would jam with local musicians, which was always fascinating. The experience was tremendously eye-opening for me. It demonstrated how music can be used to unite cultures that are very different.
Mission Viejo Patch: I read that you originally came from the East Coast to California. What do you see as the difference between East Coat jazz and West Coast jazz, if any?
Rosenn: Any style of playing that is found on the East Coast can be found on the West Coast in varying degrees. Having said that, I have found Boston and New York to be more open to experimentation and individuality.
Patch: Are you the first to pursue music as a career or are other members of your family musically inclined?
Rosenn: My father is a psychiatrist, and my mother is a psychologist, and neither were musically inclined. However, they were very supportive of me musically and never discouraged me from pursuing it as a career. My younger sister is involved in painting and art education and is a talented singer, and my younger brother is a documentary director-editor/blues-funk guitarist.
I started playing guitar at about age 12 and got a subscription to Guitar Player magazine. At the time, the magazine covered very diverse genres of music, and I soaked it up and investigated as much music as I could. I eventually gravitated towards jazz, and when I was about 15, I started playing in an ensemble at a local musical school in Weston, MA, much like the ensembles I teach at Saddleback [College] now. After experiencing firsthand how fun it was, I was hooked!
Patch: I like the nice, open sound that you have on your newest JoE-LeSs shOe album with only you, saxophone and drums. Why no bass player?
Rosenn: Thank you! Outsole is our second album, and we have a lot of fun in the bassless environment. We don't use a bassist in JoE-LeSs shOe because it makes us think and play differently and challenges us to listen and interact in a more unorthodox way. We all love playing with bass players, but in this particular group, as my teacher Jimmy Giuffre [pronounced Joo-free] used to say, "Less is more"!
Patch: Tell me about the title joE-leSs shOe, and what’s behind those caps?
Rosenn: We decided on our name because Jason Harnell, Matt Otto and myself all had separate bands with Joe Bagg. So his band was “Joe-less.” The caps just naturally evolved over time and somewhere along the way stabilized. My main projects are with Option 3, JoE-LeSs shOe and a third group called Sigmund Fudge with Joe Bagg on electric piano, Ryan McGillicuddy on bass and Jason Harnell on drums. Sigmund Fudge is due to record very soon.
Patch: What are the rewards and/or drawbacks of teaching?
Rosenn: Teaching has changed my lifestyle so that I can pick and choose the gigs that are more rewarding to me musically than before I taught. It's also great to interact with students who are excited about learning music and exchange ideas with them. Having to explain what has become automatic to me often provides different perspectives that revitalize my practicing. I can benefit from it as much as students do. The drawback is that it can tire me out. I teach at Saddleback College, Cypress College, Musician's Institute and Los Angeles Music Academy, so it can get pretty busy.
Patch: Any words from the wise for young musicians?
Rosenn: My advice would be to keep an open mind and listen to a lot of music. Pay attention to what really impresses you and see if you can figure out why. Also, spend some time imagining what you would sound like if you could play at the level you would like to eventually get to. Keep whittling away, defining that sound in your head and you'll have a clearer picture of what you need to do to achieve it.