by ANDREA MYERS
Armed with a resume of genre-busting gigs and a killer mohawk, trumpet player Kelly Rossum is unlike most contemporary jazz musicians—and it has helped him to make one of the more captivating and relevant local jazz releases of the year. Rossum’s third effort as a bandleader, Line, will be released this weekend at a pair of shows at the Dakota Jazz Club, and the album is a treat for jazzheads and casual listeners alike.
an age of instant gratification and iTune singles, Rossum has gone out on a
limb by constructing a full-blown concept album. Remember those? “The
single melody lines form the foundation for all of the improvisations,”
Rossum explains. As the album progresses there are repeated themes; though the
disc itself is hardly repetitive. The mood of the album swings from peacefully
ambling (“La Vita a Roma”) to slow and smoky (“Sitting on
the Dock Looking at Stars”) to barn-burning fast (“Line III”),
and the musicians work together to pull off each shift gracefully. Drummer J.T.
Bates and brother Chris Bates (bass) drive the bus and ease the group into varying
tempos, while saxophone players Chris Thomson and Woody Witt trade off melody
lines with Rossum, circling around a common theme yet adding their own unique
flavors to the mix.
xRossum has been playing trumpet since age 9, and he explored many different
types of music before settling into jazz performance full time. “I’ve
played in orchestras, polka bands, pit orchestras, big bands, natural trumpet
ensembles, rock bands, swing bands, disco bands, horn/ funk bands, commercial
ensembles and electric groups,” Rossum says. But his passion was most
strong when listening to and playing jazz. He attributes the start of his love
affair to the record ‘Round About Midnight by Miles Davis. “That
was the record,” he says. “It was all over after that.” It
just took many years to accept the fact that I was a jazz musician at heart.
I’ve always loved jazz, it’s been my true passion, but financially
it is not a sure thing; so, up until about six years ago, I played anything
that came along ... Since I formed my own group in 2000, I’ve been much
more focused on jazz as my primary art form.”
jazz is not often considered an accessible genre, Rossum believes that anyone
can be a jazz lover with enough time and consideration. “I think people
really want to enjoy jazz,” he says. “It’s an important part
of our United States’ culture; it just takes time and energy to absorb
the meaning behind the music. Jazz isn’t as accessible as the pop music
that we hear on today’s radio stations; jazz takes a higher level of concentration
when listening. I have many records that I have listened to over 50 times apiece,
and I still hear new interaction and new ideas on these sides.”
Rossum’s disc is similarly complex. During its first rotation, many of
the details of the improvised solos fall into the background as the brain works
to interpret the vast expanse of colors and moods, taking the listener off to
a different place. “La Vita a Roma,” for example, sweeps the mind
away to a lazy day walking around Rome, and the song draws on a melody Rossum
created while visiting the Italian city. “I just couldn’t get the
phrase out of my head! So I decided to compose an environment that would allow
improvisers to explore that theme,” he says. “Thus the song was
On repeated listens, however, it becomes easier to hear all of the little nuances
and quiet moments that make the disc technically impressive. Each rotation peels
away another layer of the onion, and the album continues to compound itself.
In a time of quickly fading musical fads and buzz bands, Rossum has created
a complete package that is both innovative and capable of standing up to the
test of time—no matter how fast it starts to move.
Kelly Rossum plays the release shows for his new disc on Fri., Oct. 6 and
Sat., Oct. 7 at the Artists’ Quarter. 9 p.m. $10. 21+. 408 St. Peter St.,
St. Paul. 651-292-1359. For more info on Kelly Rossum, visit krossum.com.