Violinist and singer Rosi Hertlein divides her devotion between the worlds of classical music, free improvisation and jazz. Her work in recent years includes collaborations with Joe McPhee, Pauline Oliveros, Reggie Workman, Howard Johnson, David Taylor, Vincent Chancey and others. On May 17th at Roulette, Rosi teams up with avant jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee and pianist Joe Kubera for an evening exploring two of her main passions in a unique combination.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
ROSI HERTLEIN: In this concert we will play with the contrast of composed and improvised music. The idea originated by accident: I had my computer set to play music at random. It chose to pick classical pieces followed by improvisations back and forth. I loved the feeling of this sonic experience. Being a musician versed in different styles of music and music making, I formed the idea for this evening. I clearly knew what music I wanted to play, and with whom I wanted to perform. I have worked with multi instrumentalist Joe McPhee in various settings from duo, trio to large ensemble. He is one of the finest, most sensitive improvisers on the scene and I am thrilled that he agreed to play in this concert. Joseph Kubera is an expert in contemporary piano music. I was equally thrilled when he also agreed to work with me. We have known each other several years, but this is the first time we are collaborating.
The degree of complexity of these compositions required intense vocal work. After several concentrated rehearsals with Joseph I feel we are now ready for the performance. Joe McPhee and Joseph Kubera will work together for the fist time that very evening. Both are very wonderful personalities and I know we will create some incredible music together. I’m also very excited about two poems that I will be singing in improvisational fashion that night: When I told poet K. Curtis Lyle about this project he honored me by graciously sending me these poems. Thank you Curtis!
R: Are there working artists today with whose work you identify, or rather, who do you consider to be your peers?
RH: I lived in Hamburg, Germany where I worked for radio station NDR (North German Radio) as a producer of the Jazz Big band. There I met tuba player Howard Johnson. He insisted, I move to New York. He felt I did not receive the attention I deserved. I arrived in New York in 1995 and was immediately introduced to great musicians such as John Esposito, Joe McPhee, Pauline Oliveros, Kristin Nordervall, Monique Buzzarte, Charlie Burnham, Baikida Carroll and a little later: Cecil Taylor, Reggy Workman, Daniel Carter, Warren Smith, to name a few. Aside from great collaborations with all these musicians, I developed strong friendships with most of them. Many of the musicians I work with today, are artists I already admired while still living in Germany. The list of collaborator/friends/peers has grown ever since. I love working with Adam Rudolph’s Organic Orchestra, Jason Kao Hwang’s Spontaneous River Ensemble, Steve Swell’s Nation of We, Rozanne Levin’s Chakra Tuning, John Tchikai’s 6 Points Ensemble, Reggy Workman’s African American Legacy Project and many more…
R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into? What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
RH: I’m part of the so-called creative scene. We all try to explore new ways of music making, new sounds, new concepts, new combinations of music styles and forms. I experience this scene as an extension of the Jazz tradition per se. The people involved in this scene are generally very evolved human beings and that too, is an extension of the Jazz tradition.
R: What was the last music you listened to?
RH: A new composition by Baikida Carroll. He wrote a requiem for three trumpets, and seven ensemble musicians. I heard the electronic version and hope to hear this beautiful piece with real musicians, soon!
R: What is music?
RH: Vibration. Nothing exists without vibration. So, music is everything!
R: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
RH: I’m both.
R: Who do you see as instrumental in your development as an artist?
RH: I have a constant drive to “make” things and explore things. And there is an endless list of artists of all disciplines – but also birds and nature in general that inspire me to create.
R: What is interesting to you about your own work?
RH: How it is constantly evolving and developing in ways that surprise even me.
R: Do you do other things aside from music?
RH: I paint and write. I had my first solo exhibit of paintings last September. This spring, I joined a new group of poets and musicians: We call ourselves: The Jazz and Poetry Choir Consortium and we will perform later this year.