The Roxy Coss Quintet turns out to be more than the sum of its Disparate partsan aptly named new album on Outside in Music.

(Photo: Desmond White)

Roxy Coss first made a name for herself as a force to be reckoned with The future is female (Posi-Tone, 2017), his defiant response to the 2016 election. The album cover showed Coss girded for battle, ready to wield his saxophones as weapons. The album also marked the debut of her five-piece ensemble, which she officially dubbed the Roxy Coss Quintet on her acclaimed 2019 album.

The quintet turns out to be more than the sum of its Disparate parts, the aptly named new release of Outside in Music. Recorded during a brief lull in the pandemic, when Coss was seven months pregnant with a baby girl, the album amplifies the solidarity of the quintet by giving voice to the vision of each of the members: Alex Wintz on guitar, Miki Yamanaka on piano and Rhodes, Rick Rosato on bass and Jimmy Macbride on drums. Most contribute to the compositions, and all fly free with solos that punctuate the conversation.

Coss explores the intersection of “The Body”, “The Mind”, “The Heart” and “The Spirit” in his own evocative four-part sequel, and uses the five takes of Yamanaka’s “February” to frame the sequencing of the album – a brilliant last-minute decision that made Disparate parts a coherent work reflected in its cover. Designed by her mother, Mary Coss, it shows a plaster cast living mask of Coss shaded by the wireframe words “disparate parts” washing up on the shore of a female future yet to be revealed.

DownBeat spoke to Coss via Zoom from his home in Bloomfield, New Jersey, shortly before the quintet’s CD release party in March.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You really throw down the gauntlet with “The Body”.

Yes! After that first take, I felt like we had it figured out. I’ve never felt that in the studio before. It was so much energy, especially being pregnant. Then exhaustion set in, but the right kind of exhaustion.

How did you find the four-part concept?

For a long time I thought about having disparate parts of myself that aren’t really integrated with each other, which can keep you from realizing your full potential. Each of these musical ideas was related, even if they were very different.

And as they started to develop, I thought it was definitely ‘The Body’, it’s very visceral. Whereas “The Mind” is more intellectual, about things like changing time signatures.

“The Mind” is also very playful.

I attribute that to Miki, who is featured on this track. She’s such a playful person and player. The “heart” of any band is the bassist, so this one was pretty organic and powered by Rick’s solo. “The Spirit” is the last song I wrote, a few years after writing the others. We tried the first three on a small stage and at least six months passed before I said, it’s not done. It needs a new part. What is that? It’s something you can’t really describe. It’s in the air. It is evolutionary and ethereal. So I wrote the melody that became “The Spirit”, which completed the suite.

“Maebs” is dedicated to the late and great pianist Harold Maeburn. What was your own relationship with him?

He was a personal mentor. I met him at this jazz workshop when I was 16 and ended up working with him at William Patterson University. He was always such a support. When I had a gig at Smalls, Maebes would sit in the front row and say, “Genius, genius. He made me feel like I mattered and my music mattered.

And you make your band feel like their music matters. Several members contribute tracks, like Alex’s song, “Ely, MN”, which is pretty epic.

It was an integral part of the concept. Each of us is a disparate part of the group. I think you get the best group experience when you really hear every person, not just one person.

I wrote the track “Disparate Parts” at the very last minute because I wanted one more track for the album. And I had four different ideas, so I decided that each would feature one of us. It’s all disparate parts and it’s the title track.

Another disparate part is the post-production I did with Johannes Felscher, who mixed the album. We experimented with soundscapes that pushed the boundaries beyond pure jazz, which I would like to do more of in the future.

What was it like recording during the pandemic?

We delayed registration for over a year. Then when things started to get better and I was about to have a baby, we were lucky. We recorded just before the Delta wave hit, and we each had our own room, or our own booth, in the studio. So we felt pretty safe and it was great to play together again.

How has being pregnant affected the way you played in the studio?

For one thing, I was out of shape. [laughs] My body, my chops. Physically, some things were out of reach, so there were definitely challenges. But when we were doing “The Body,” I felt a different energy, a sense of urgency that I don’t normally feel.

Maybe because you were two in your body.

Yes – and it was cool to think that she was there and part of it all. comics

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