Beloved of the Sky (Smoke Sessions)
Released April 6, 2018
Juno Award Nominee Jazz Album of the Year: Solo 2019
The worth of a thing is not only to be found in its bottom-line value. The worth of a thing is not only to be found in its bottom-line value. That’s the idea at the heart of Canadian artist Emily Carr’s painting “Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky,” which depicts a solitary tree, rejected by loggers who have clear-cut its neighbors, stretching improbably but majestically into the heavens.
It’s a sentiment that resonates deeply with pianist/composer Renee Rosnes. On her new album, Beloved of the Sky – where Carr’s painting provides the inspiration for the title track, album title, and cover art – Rosnes explores the beauty and wonder to be found in life’s more elusive, intangible joys. Beloved of the Sky also celebrates the chemistry and discovery made possible by a band of truly remarkable musicians, each one a master of their instrument: saxophonist Chris Potter, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Lenny White. “The beautiful thing about working with such masters,” Rosnes says, “is that when we play new music, they all bring their wealth of experience, taste, skill and imagination to the music. It’s exciting for me as a composer to write something and then see how it blossoms, because inevitably it’s going to sound a little different than what I imagined – in a great way.”
1. Elephant Dust (Renee Rosnes) 07:25
2. Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky (Renee Rosnes) 06:54
3. Mirror Image (Renee Rosnes) 08:22
4. Rosie (Bobby Hutcherson) 06:32
5. Black Holes (Renee Rosnes) 06:20
6. The Flame and the Lotus (Renee Rosnes) 06:22
7. Rhythm of the River (Renee Rosnes) 03:47
8. The Winter of My Discontent (Ben Ross Berenberg / Alec Wilder) 07:20
9. Let the Wild Rumpus Starts (Renee Rosnes) 08:11
Renee Rosnes: piano
Chris Potter: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute
Steve Nelson: vibes
Peter Washington: bass
Lenny White: drums
Recorded October 16 – 17, 2017, at Systems Two, Brooklyn, New York
Producer and Design Concept: Paul Stache
Executive Producer: Frank Christopher
Engineer: Max Ross
Assistant Engineer: Andrew Cavaciuti
Mixing and Mastering: Christopher Thomas Allen
Cover Photography: Trevor Mills
Artwork: Emily Carr
those not familiar with the Tyner-esque bop flourish and Horace Silver-like
subtlety of Canadian pianist/composer Renee Rosnes, then the
rollicking Beloved of the Sky may be the disc to begin the discovery.
Recorded live at NY’s Smoke club, the recording features the free-swinging
quintet of Rosnes, saxophonist Chris Potter (who is especially frisky
and acrobatic here), vibraphonist Steve Nelson, drummer Lenny White, and
bassist Peter Washington.
An alum of the 1980’s Canadian jazz scene with nine Blue Note recordings in her catalog, including 1999’s Art and Soul, 2003’s Renee Rosnes with the Danish Radio Big Band, and 2010’s duet with husband Bill Charlap, Double Portrait, Rosnes opens her swaggering new disc with the aggressive, no-holds-barred “Elephant Dust,” a hard bop romp if ever there was one, with pinpoint staccato changes that keep the band on its toes. It’s here that Potter begins his joyride, cart-wheeling with squawking solos in vigorous tandem with Rosnes and Nelson. Washington and White are no slouches, driving the propulsive composition from beginning to end.
Reflecting the cover artwork of painter Emily Carr, “Scorned As Timber, Beloved of the Sky” changes mood quickly. Sounding somber and chamber like, Potter’s keening soprano intertwines itself around Rosnes lush, reverberant lines and Nelson’s quiet reflection upon them. Rosnes, having played many years with the late vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson as part of the SFJAZZ Collective, shares a particularly intimate, intuitive sense of melody and flow with Nelson here and on “Mirror Image,” a song written specifically for Hutcherson. “Rosie” a Hutcherson composition, is taken as a mid-tempo ballad. “Black Holes” brings the band back to bop, Washington and White again setting the tight pace and Potter ranging wild. Rosnes’ quietly ruminative “The Flame and the Lotus” and Alec Wilders’ plaintive “The Winter of My Discontent” highlight Rosnes formidable arranging skills and soft, lyrical touch and affords bassist Washington a deep, concise solo. The swinging closer, “Let The Wild Rumpus Start” completes a truly invigorating recording, making Beloved of the Sky one of the absolute best of this new spring season.
Mike Jurkovic (All About Jazz)