Roxy Coss: Restless Idealism

Tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss is a protégé of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and on the 10 original compositions that make up Restless Idealism, it shows. Among other things she shares with Pelt (who appears on two tracks) are fondnesses for elaborate linear melodies and shifting times, and an eagerness to play with short-form conventions.

Not that Restless Idealism is far out: Actually, it’s quite straight-ahead postbop. Coss and guitarist Alex Wintz do frontline duty over a hard-swinging rhythm section (pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer Willie Jones III). Some tunes (“Don’t Cross the Coss,” “Push”) are even in standard song form, but Coss more often experiments. The dark, mellow “Perspective” has five strains, not counting the two four-bar bass passages in the middle; “Waiting” has a bridge, among six different A sections. The experiments don’t always lie within the composition itself. “Tricky” is initially anything but, a fun midtempo piece-the tricky part comes with Jones’ subtle shifts of syncopation.

The playing is stellar throughout. Coss has a pretty sound, drawn from the Dexter Gordon school (but with a husky undertone) that excels at evoking complex emotions; “Waiting” blends frustration with mystery and adrenaline. Pattishall seems to have creative energy to burn, plus a desire to push at the harmonic borders. Pelt’s two slots (“Push” and “The Story of Fiona”) are blowing sessions, and he brings bright lines of compact, melodic phrases.

Coss does show some weaknesses on Restless Idealism. Melodically, she is too indebted to Pelt. Tunes like “Recurring Dream,” with its six-bar B strain and feints toward repetition, practically strive for the trumpeter’s style. She also shies away from any harmonic adventure; there’s nothing wrong with conventional jazz harmony, of course, but it’s odd that Coss evinces no flexibility to speak of. Nonetheless, Coss’ sophomore effort finds her building

on her considerable promise.

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