Submitted by Professor Rich Falco. Interview by Tom Bellino (Planet Arts)
“Pianist Michele Rosewoman’s fusion of Afro-Cuban folkloric music and post-bop jazz avoids the obvious without being obscure . . . she’s an original thinker making uncompromising and forward-looking jazz— which just happens to be accessible and viscerally exciting.” -JAZZIZ
Born in Oakland, California, Michele Rosewoman studied jazz with pianist Ed Kelly. Later studies in percussion led her to ancient Caribbean folkloric idioms. Over the span of two decades, Rosewoman stands out in her class as a visionary bandleader, composer and performer. As a vanguard jazz artist and pianist, firmly grounded in tradition, she deftly fuses acoustic modern jazz, funk, electric fusion and Afro Cuban elements, to deliver unforgettable, transcendent musical experiences.
In the Bay Area, she performed with her own ensembles and with fellow jazz innovators: Julian Priester, Julius Hemphill, Baikida Carroll and Oliver Lake. In New York, she formed new ensembles and continued to present her music with collaborators Rufus Reid, Reggie Workman, Freddie Waits, James Spaulding, Billy Hart, Carlos Ward and the inimitable master drummer/vocalist from Cuba, the late Orlando „Puntilla‟ Rios, and others.
Rosewoman‟s innovative projects garnered critical acclaim and major awards and recognitions. Highlights include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for “New Yor-Uba, A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America.” For Quintessence- cited as one of the best jazz recordings of the 80‟s- she won two Chamber Music /Doris Duke Foundation New Works Creation and Presentation Commissions and a Chamber Music America Encore Grant. An ASCAP/Meet the Composer Commission for Emerging Composers culminated in a world premiere in New York City featuring the 40-piece Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.
Known for bringing together some of the most inventive voices in jazz, including MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Miguel Zenon, Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, Steve Wilson, Mark Shim, Robin Eubanks, Kenny Davis, Terri Lyne Carrington, and others, many have cited that working with Rosewoman made an indelible mark on their artistic development as musicians, composers and bandleaders
Rosewoman has performed at festivals, concert halls and clubs and conducted educational workshops at colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.
An NPR review of her and her work as, “an indomitable modern jazz pianist [with] singular, sound ideas [which] expand readily to her dark, fiery ensembles” fittingly describe her style, commitment and passion. Thus, Ms. Rosewoman is highly regarded as one of the most ingenious composers and prolific bandleaders of her generation—a reputation she enjoys to this day.
Quintessence is the main vehicle showcasing Michele Rosewoman’s evolution as pianist, composer and bandleader. In 1986, she formed her Quintessence ensemble, which debuted at Cooper Union Great Hall in New York City.