Renee Rosnes: Beloved of the Sky (Smoke Sessions)

Review of album by pianist accompanied by Chris Potter, Steve Nelson, Peter Washington and Lenny White

Cover of Renee Rosnes album Beloved of the Sky
Cover of Renee Rosnes album Beloved of the Sky

Finding a more simpatico crew for this quintet date from Renee Rosnes would have been hard. Besides the leader on piano, the lineup consists of saxophonist/flutist Chris Potter, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lenny White—good listeners all, and listening is at the core of these nine tracks. For as exquisitely melodic as the frontline can be here, their best bits aren’t always found in individual solos.

The point, in short, is counterpoint. It’s built into the stately melody of “Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky,” as Rosnes and Washington split off from Potter’s soprano halfway through the statement of the head to construct a tasty supporting line. It’s present when Potter and Rosnes solo together, Dixieland-style, before they return to the darting theme of “Elephant Dust.” And it’s there pretty much every time Rosnes and Nelson play together. The two weave their most intricate tapestries within a pair of tunes that honor Bobby Hutcherson, “Mirror Image” (which Rosnes originally wrote for Hutcherson to perform) and the late vibraphonist’s own “Rosie.” On the former, during Potter’s solo, they fill the background with a multi-textured cloud of notes; on the latter, Rosnes comps underneath Nelson’s solo with such perfect anticipation of what he plays that it’s as if they were one four-armed beast.

White, meanwhile, takes rhythmic hints from the others, extrapolates them until he’s reached his limit and then moves on. Just about the only time he isn’t constantly in motion is the midpoint of “Black Holes,” when he briefly stops. Then, in partnership with Washington, he re-scrambles the groove, laying down a funk foundation that Rosnes’ syncopated chords keep tugging against. Fittingly, the closing 12-bar “Let the Wild Rumpus Start” tucks a unison tenor/bassline behind the first chorus of Rosnes’ solo, yet another clever contrapuntal touch.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Beloved of the Sky by Renee Rosnes on iTunes.

Read Jeff Tamarkin’s At Home profile of Renee Rosnes and Bill Charlap.

Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.