Michele Rosewoman and Quintessence: Guardians of the Light

Pianist Michele Rosewoman has been at it for some time, and she has some fervent supporters out there. But while there are things I like about the music on Guardians of the Light, I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon. In fact, I’m a little amazed that other critics could find her a “strikingly original voice” with a “maverick vision.” What we have here is very mainstream modern jazz, quite well arranged, played by musicians who give good if not brilliant accounts of themselves as soloists. Rosewoman is a fine pianist and her brief vocal turn is quite effective, but her strong suit is the writing, much of which is in a sort of post-bop, post-modal style that might call to mind Woody Shaw’s work. Of course, many of us just waited through Woody’s tunes to hear him blow, while interest tends to flag during the some of the solos here. It’s not that saxophonists Steve Wilson and Craig Handy or Rosewoman herself lack ideas so much as that the group playing doesn’t jell. It’s almost as if everyone is referring to the overall structure independently, or is paying too much attention to reading charts and not enough to listening. I couldn’t tell whether the fact that this is a live recording was part of the problem, but things often sound cluttered.