Roxy Coss Quintet Releases Set of Dynamic, Collaborative New Music on ‘Disparate Parts’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The Roxy Coss quintet’s (RCQ) Disparate Parts follows up Coss’ acclaimed release Quintet (2019), and features the same musicians in a more unbridled, spirited context: Coss on tenor and soprano saxophone, Alex Wintz on guitar, Miki Yamanaka on piano, and keyboards, Rick Rosato on bass and Jimmy Macbride on drums. Like the best of contemporary jazz, this marries traditional forms with free-form explorations, both acoustically and electronically across Coss’ four-movement suite, “The Body,” “The Mind,” “The Heart” and “The Spirit” as well as other band contributed originals.

Coss wrote the album during a period when she was pregnant and when becoming a new mom. So, juggling these roles as a female musician, bandleader, composer, and new mom forced her into daily rituals of compartmentalizing her time, thus the title. In addition to her own life, like all of us, Coss felt the emotions of loss, resilience, and renewal brought on by the pandemic. She communicates this swirl of emotions through the four-movement suite of her own compositions, a couple of others and those from Wintz, Macbride, and Yamanaka, all of whom have built the Roxy Coss Quintet sound, first formed in 2018, and evolving to even more expressive levels on this project. 

Following the first of five interludes entitled “February” takes penned by Yamanaka, a further exposition of disparate parts that bind the album together, The RCQ introduces the disarming crunch of “The Body” with Wintz playing rock guitar god to visceral exchanges between the other quintet members. Already we’re in a different sonic place than we were the last time we heard the band. Eventually, the tune mellows down and saunters out, making way for a meditative awakening after an opening flurry of distorted scales connoting confusion and disorientation in “The Mind.” As the tune unfolds and undergoes rhythmic changes powered by Yamanaka’s Rhodes and bass-drum tandem, Coss reenters with her declarative statement. “The Heart” is the most pensive and contemplative of the first three, giving generous space to an expansive solo from Rosato as Coss follows with her most lyrical tenor turns on the disc. The final movement of the suite came together collaboratively with the opening sounding like the musical score to a mobile hanging above an infant’s crib. The lullaby-like melody, carried by Coss’ lovely soprano serves to link the piece together, written with no delineation of soloists in mind. Yamanaka and Wintz provide gorgeously smooth electronic textures that underpin Coss’ inspired flight. 

Coss uses the title to also represent the diverse nature of her bandmates, who hail from different cultural backgrounds. As such, when she first composed the piece, she thought she had sketches of four different tunes until she began to realize they, like her group, could form one unit. In this spirit, the through-composed form lends itself to each quintet member’s artistic tendencies. The ensemble introduces a snappy, syncopated melody with Coss and Wintz first trading lines, followed by a Coss’ signature clusters on tenor, Wintz essaying rapid runs to the beats of Macbride and Rosato, followed by a marked slowing of tempo, led by the Rhodes which fades the tune out.

Wintz’s “Ely, MN” stretches colorful melodies that open up free harmonic terrain for spirited dialogue between Coss and Yamanaka, who blend lyricism with unfettered exploration that each builds to the boiling point.  Nodding to the late mentor, Harold Mabern, “Mabes” begins sweetly in Coss’ solo, gradually building in funk and blues that colored Mabern’s style through Wintz’s inspired extended run. Coss picks up on this vibe when she returns, delivering gutty greasy lines before returning to the lyrically reverent mode of her opening sequence. Yamanaka’s samba-inspired “Sunburn” serves as a vehicle for each artist, (Coss on soprano, Yamanaka on Rhodes) to take inspired flights. Macbride’s atmospheric “Warm One” is elegantly free-flowing with Wintz echoing Coss’ sustained notes and Yamanaka’s colorful textures as the drummer caresses his kit with nimble, nuanced touches. This is the only track where we hear the pianist on an acoustic piano, blending it with the Rhodes she plays throughout, serving up the most layered piece of all. Yamanaka’s “February” (Take 2) concludes in an aggressive mode as if to put the exclamation point on the notion that the group can move in several directions. 

The Roxy Coss Quintet keeps evolving, delivering a spirited, wildly diverse set of tunes that bodes well for future limitless explorations.

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